Josh Wolff
Essy Ghavameddini/MLS/

Wizards to look for an opening

Because they need two goals more than the visiting San Jose Earthquakes to tie up the their Western Conference semifinal series on aggregate -- and three more to win outright -- should the Kansas City Wizards abandon their defense first, counterattacking style? Should they throw more numbers forward into the attack? Or should they patiently work for the first goal before pushing blatantly forward?

Maybe. At times. Perhaps.

Formations, statistics, tactics, coaching moves, field conditions, field dimensions, home or away -- all that will eventually matter is the performance of the players on the field, as they make the ultimate difference no matter the conditions, systems, or restrictions they are put under.

Wizards striker Josh Wolff knows that, despite all other factors, it will be he and the other 21 players on the Arrowhead Stadium field Saturday night who will determine how things play out.

"They're a good team, they've got good players -- that's all that really matters. We're a good team. In the end, it's about players," Wolff said. "Whether it's individually or collectively, we can play. We've got the right guys."

Indeed, the Wizards proved all year that they have, from top to bottom, one of the top rosters in all of Major League Soccer. But Wolff, fellow striker Davy Arnaud, midfielders Kerry Zavagnin and Diego Gutierrez, "designated scorer" Igor Simutenkov and, of course, the players at the heart of the Wizards' defense like goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi, will play integral parts as the Wizards endeavor to overcome the two-goal advantage the Quakes currently hold.

The Wizards' regular-season leading scorer, Wolff as ever will be counted on to provide an offensive spark on the dribble, in combination, or via a long strike -- things he could not provide last Saturday in San Jose.

"Games provide whatever's available. They had guys around the whole time," Wolff said. "[But] the last two or three times we played them in Kansas City, we created a number of opportunities. That's something that we're certainly going to stress this week."

Wolff added: "For me, it's about getting more looks, creating more opportunities for myself, Davy, or Jack (midfielder Jewsbury), or whoever's coming forward."

The Quakes players restricted Wolff and company last Saturday by playing smartly and passionately. Wolff did not hesitate in giving them a nod.

"San Jose did a good job of not allowing us any real room or space to threaten for the last 15 minutes -- you've got to give them credit," he said.

Whatever the outcome of this Saturday's clash, it will be the players who will determine who gets the credit for success or failure. And that's how it should be.

"Sure, we're under a little pressure now, but we're still a team that is capable of putting up numbers. That's the mindset that we're going to have," said Wolff.

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

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