Defensive lapses have plagued Kansas City thus far in the 2005 campaign, and inconsistency in the back bit again Saturday night as D.C. United, on the strength of two goals from Christian Gomez, narrowly averted a Wizards team that wouldn't go away and escaped with a 3-2 victory.
In a see-saw first half, both teams had several decent chances, but it was the home team that struck first. United's Jaime Moreno opened the floodgates with a penalty kick in the 29th minute after teammate Alecko Eskandarian was brought down by K.C. defender Jose Burciaga Jr. dribbling through the box. It was Moreno's fourth goal of the season.
"I thought we started out well in terms of our possession and opportunities," said Wizards coach Bob Gansler. "But it was one break that led to the PK. We need to stop that walk through the park down the middle."
Gansler said his team didn't show focus throughout in the back.
Despite their defensive woes, the Wizards were able to pull even in the 62nd minute when United defender Bobby Boswell inadvertently deflected a Chris Klein cross into his own goal. But only seven minutes later, Gomez put D.C. back up a goal by finishing a cross from Moreno.
"We came back," Gansler said. "That second goal was reasonably well-created (by United), although we lost a guy backdoor."
The potent attacking combo of Klein and Josh Wolff felt that giving up United's second goal was something of a momentum killer.
"In the first half, we just wanted to get some of the ball and try and create and make things happen," said Klein. "And after the first goal, I thought we were starting to do that. We were getting a little bit of momentum but we quickly gave it back."
Said Wolff: "We can't keep giving up opportunities after we get ourselves back in the game. We've done that a couple of times this year -- we get a goal, and then we turn around in the next five or 10 minutes and give up some good looks. That happened again tonight."
Gomez added to the United lead by connecting again 10 minutes later, this time on a beautiful feed from second half substitute Freddy Adu. Scott Sealy pulled the Wiz to within one again, though, in the game's closing minutes as he found himself wide open in front of the goal after a mishandled ball by United 'keeper Nick Rimando.
The contest was much more wide open than the last meeting between the two teams, which was a tactical chess match featuring strong defensive play and a general lack of offense.
"When you get on a field like this and the ball moves pretty quickly and it's an even game, there's a little more energy, a little more enthusiasm," said Wolff. "It was definitely a quicker pace than the one at home (April 30)."
"Tonight I think the game opened up a little bit," said Klein. "Both teams created chances. They just created more. We enjoy that (open style of play). We enjoy the space and running off each other. Tonight we had a tough time creating those good looks. And it showed in the end that they had more good looks than we did."
Gansler thought his team put forth a solid effort, possessing the ball well and giving itself a chance to get at least a point on the road. But he noted that there is definitely room for improvement.
"It was a pretty even game," he said. "Shots and shots on goal were dead even. Sometimes possession is fool's good -- it's how you create and realize chances [that matters]. I thought we were a little too generous, especially on the first and the third goals. We've got to make better defensive plays.
"They're a good team, and I think we're a good team. But we wasted some good soccer tonight because we got too generous ... It's one thing if you get beat and stink up the place. But we didn't stink up the place (tonight)."
Wolff was humble in defeat, praising the United defensive strategy.
"I think they match up really well against the way we play," said Wolff. "It does get frustrating at times. But that's life. You have to keep plugging away and find your spots. ... Give credit to them -- they were able to keep us off the boards for 60 minutes or so, and then put us away."
The game was a rematch of last year's MLS Cup Final, which also ended in favor of D.C. 3-2, but the two teams find themselves as intra-conference rivals now that the Wizards have moved over to the East due to league expansion.
"Anytime you play a team in the MLS Cup, it creates its own rivalry," said Klein. "We're still adjusting to our new life in the Eastern Conference."
Wolff wasn't quite as ready to call the K.C.-D.C. matchup a rivalry just yet, though.
"It doesn't carry the intensity quite yet," he said. "They've had our number more than we've had theirs in the last three or four meetings. It's something we're going to have to pick up on over the coming months...because we still have them two more times. We've got to find ways to get results against them. They're in our division and we're competing with them for a playoff spot. We're going to work at it."
Part of securing that playoff spot will come from playing more consistently week in and week out.
"We're an up-and-down team right now," said Wolff. "We're winning some games, tying some games, losing some games. It's been a bit of a rocky road these first seven games."
Asked about his team's inconsistency this young season, Gansler said he doesn't think his squad has necessarily exhibited more of that than any other in the league.
"You've got 12 teams (in MLS), and I bet you every coach with the exception of Coach Nicol in New England, would say 'we're not consistent enough and we don't put together enough good soccer.' But it's a work in progress. Perfection is what we're looking for, and we're not close enough yet, so we're going to keep working."
Omar Garriott is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.