Pablo Brenes

Wizards can't find magic vs. Saprissa

The spell wasn't sufficient.

In a dramatic match, the Kansas City Wizards couldn't achieve their dream of moving on to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, falling in extra time to Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica by a 2-1 scoreline.

The MLS club put out a very conservative scheme, intending on few occasions to attack the goal guarded by José Francisco Porras. A considerable quantity of supporters came to the home of Deportivo Saprissa, encouraged by the result obtained a week before by their team, a scoreless draw in Kansas City.

And so the match developed; the plan laid out by Wizards coach Bob Gansler was bearing fruit in maintaining a completely closed danger area. The idea was to look for the counterattack with any chance that would trouble the Saprissa defense. Then it came with a dead ball opportunity in the second half, a free kick that fullback José Luis Burciaga managed to hit with such force that it overcame the defense of goalkeeper Porras.

From that strike, the home side began to explode with everything towards the Wizards goal. Ronald Gómez tried and tried again, but what was left in the eye of the fans were numerous plays where the burly left-footed striker had a clear chance to score but wasted each opportunity in incredible fashion.

The changes made by Saprissa coach Hernán Medford turned the result, principally the addition of former MetroStars midfielder Pablo Brenes, who in the 91st minute created the chance that another substitute, Gerald Drummond, put into the back of the net and brought extra time. The spell cast by the Wizards lasted only 90 minutes -- not a second more.

The first extra period had just begun when a terrific service from Gómez created anew the chance for Drummond to score the second goal and seal the result. But one must also mention the third change made by the home side -- the talented Alonso Solís, who helped to possess the ball and neutralize the strong Kansas City forwards, who looked to level the score by any means necessary. They almost managed it when Davy Arnaud came close to equalizing the score, when with no more than three minutes on the clock his header attempt just sailed wide. There the Wizards expired.

For the Bob Gansler-led troops, the little soccer they've played in the recent weeks was noticed throughout the match, but now they can turn their attention to the opening of the MLS season in the first days of April. The club will remain a few days more in Costa Rica, where they have scheduled a friendly against Costa Rican power Liga Deportiva Alajuelense at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto just north of the capital on March 22, before returning home next Thursday.

Eduardo Solano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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