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INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH
7:30 pm MT (no TV)
A huge match for the makeup for the Western Conference playoff race awaits in Denver - a match which has all of a sudden become one for top spot in the division. Both the Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards pulled away from the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend - who had been leading the West from the start of the season - and now the two are just two points apart. The Rapids haven't lost at home since June 9, allowing their first goal in almost nine hours at Invesco last weekend, while the Wizards have followed a three-game losing streak with two wins in three games.
REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Robert Fereday; JAR (opposite): David Bragg; 4th: Hector Tobon
MLS Career: 56 games; FC/gm: 33.2; Y/gm: 4.1; R: 9; pens: 22
Games involving Rapids: P9 W2 L4 T3; FC/gm: 30.3; Y/gm: 5.0; R: 2; pens: 2
Games involving Wizards: P14 W6 L6 T2; FC/gm: 33.6; Y/gm: 4.4; R: 0; pens: 7
INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MD Darryl Powell (R knee sprain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DOUBTFUL: DF Joey DiGiamarino (L groin); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain); PROBABLE: DF Antonio de la Torre (R knee contusion); FW John Spencer (L hamstring strain) ... KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MD Chris Klein (L knee torn ACL); MD Preki (L ankle surgery): QUESTIONABLE: GK Tony Meola (R Achilles tendon strain); MD Jack Jewsbury (R neck/shoulder sprain); FW Igor Simutenkov (L hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP) ... KC: Diego Gutierrez (11 CP additional)
ALL-TIME (32 meetings): Wizards 14 wins (1 shootout), 59 goals ... Rapids 12 wins (3 shootout), 44 goals ... 6 draws
IN DENVER (17 meetings): Wizards 10 wins (2 shootout), 29 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout), 22 goals ... 4 draws
The two clubs meet for the third of four meetings this season, the second of the two in Denver. They'll meet again in two weeks, finishing the league series at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 25.
The Wizards have won both previous meetings this season, not having conceded a goal in either game, winning once on each club's ground - the win in Denver the only home loss of the season for the Rapids.
They snatched the full three points with a late penalty kick for a 1-0 victory on June 9 in Denver. Josh Wolff netted the spot kick two minutes deep into second-half stoppage time, as the Wizards ended the Rapids' MLS-record 16-match unbeaten streak at home.
Chris Klein split a pair of defenders with a through ball for Wolff and the U.S. international was brought down by defender Nat Borchers. Referee Andrew Chapin - running the center for the first time in an MLS match - immediately whistled the penalty and sent off Borchers. Wolff took his own penalty, blasting it down the center of the goal past Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon for his fourth goal of the season.
Here's Tim Hankinson's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Matt Crawford - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Darryl Powell, Seth Trembly (Ritchie Kotschau 86) - Zizi Roberts, John Spencer.
Here's Bob Gansler's team (4-4-2): Tony Meola - Nick Garcia, Shavar Thomas, Jimmy Conrad, Jose Burciaga Jr. (Alex Zotinca 77) - Chris Klein, Diego Walsh (Francisco Gomez 46), Kerry Zavagnin, Diego Gutierrez - Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
On May 1, the Wizards defeated the Rapids 2-0 at Arrowhead Stadium despite playing a man down for more than a half.
Jose Burciaga Jr. was sent off just before the halftime interval as he made his first MLS start in nearly a year after undergoing knee surgery. But Davy Arnaud's cross found Chris Klein in the 64th minute, his shot taking a deflection off a defender to give the Wizards the lead, then Diego Gutierrez made a rampaging run down the left flank before finding an unmarked Wolff, who calmly slotted home six minutes from time.
A year ago in league play, the Rapids won twice and the Wizards once, with one meeting ending in a draw, and only the home team winning.
The Rapids won on July 4 in Denver in dramatic fashion before another huge Independence Day crowd (Spencer 44 pen, Chung 77, 92+ - Preki 23, Armstrong 91+), the teams then playing to a equally dramatic 2-2 draw in Kansas City on Aug. 22 (Arnaud 1, Preki 93+ - Henderson 29, Spencer 41).
The Rapids won again, 1-0 at home on Sept. 13 (Spencer 83), before the Wizards won at home 4-2 on Oct. 4 (Conrad 15; Klein 21, 82; Gomez 91+ - Roberts 47, Henderson 60).
The teams then met in the Western Conference semifinals, the Wizards winning 3-1 on aggregate. They played to a 1-1 draw in Denver in the first leg (Borchers 53 - Harris 3), before Kansas City advanced with a 2-0 home victory in the second leg (Simutenkov 47+; Klein 63).
The Rapids also eliminated the Wizards from the U.S. Open Cup when they faced each other in the third round a year ago, winning
The Rapids have won the season series each of the last two seasons, the Wizards winning the season series the two years before that. Twice a team has won all four yearly meetings - K.C. winning all four games in 1997 (one by shootout), Colorado all four in 1999 (three by shootout).
Preki is the Wizards all-time leader against the Rapids with 9 goals, 16 assists. Chris Klein is next among active players (fourth all-time for the club) with 7 goals, 3 assists. Josh Wolff has 7 goals, 2 assists for his career v Colorado - his first two goals with the Wizards coming in the two meetings this year. Diego Gutierrez also 7 assists - none while with K.C.
John Spencer leads the Rapids all-time performance with 8 goals, 3 assists. Chris Henderson has 6 goals, 6 assists - all but 1 assist while with Colorado. Mark Chung also 3 goals, 2 assists against one of his former teams - all while in Colorado.
Coaches record: Tim Hankinson vs. KC: P19 W4 L9 D6 ... Bob Gansler v COL: P20 W7 L7 T6
The Colorado Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to four games, moving into second place in the Western Conference with a late 2-1 victory against the Dallas Burn at home last Saturday. The Rapids remained just two points out of the top spot in the division with 36 points from 25 matches, now a point of ahead of the Los Angeles Galaxy while trailing the San Jose Earthquakes, though they've played a game more than each.
An 85th-minute goal from Nat Borchers extended the Colorado Rapids hot streak at home with a 2-1 victory against the Burn. The Rapids haven't lost in seven home games dating back to June 5, and though they allowed their first goal at Invesco Field in nearly nine hours, still pulled into second in the West.
The visitors took the lead just before the first half ended. Ronnie O'Brien whipped in a cross from the right, finding defender Matt Behncke bursting between defenders, and his full-blooded volley put an end to the 534-minute home shutout streak of Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon.
But Colorado pulled level seven minutes after the restart when a Jean-Phillipe Peguero cross was headed by Behncke right to John Spencer waiting at the corner of the goal area, and he made no mistake in volleying home his third goal in five games.
The Rapids then claimed the points when Borchers headed home an Antonio de la Torre corner past Burn 'keeper Jeff Cassar.
"I think we started the game without enough emotion. I think that's a key word with us," Rapids coach Tim Hankinson said. "Being a goal down, there were a lot of words flying at halftime. We showed anger at halftime, we showed emotion, and that translated into urgency at the start of the second half."
Hankinson made two changes to the team that played to a scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes the week before at Spartan Stadium. Darryl Powell was lost to a knee injury, meaning Matt Crawford returned to left back and in the refit John Spencer and Jean-Philippe Peguero were reinstalled as the first-choice strike partnership, Jordan Cila returning to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Hankinson's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman (Jordan Cila 46), Pablo Mastroeni (Gary Sullivan 83), Mark Chung - Jean-Philippe Peguero, John Spencer (Seth Trembly 87).
The Rapids came back from a goal down for a victory for the first time this season. It was also just the Rapids second victory against Western Conference opposition this season - the first coming April 24 (v San Jose).
"It was the second win in our conference against a team that I felt, mentally, we were hung up on because of the way we had given away the game down there playing two men up," Hankinson said.
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Kansas City Wizards finally capitalized on an opportunity to take over top spot in the Western Conference, scoring a 1-0 victory at home against the MetroStars while the Los Angeles Galaxy lost in Columbus on Saturday. The weekend left the Wizards with 38 points from 24 matches, now two ahead of second-place Colorado Rapids (with a game in hand) and three ahead of the third-place Galaxy in a division separated by just six points top to bottom.
A 43rd-minute goal from Josh Wolff finally moved the Wizards into first place in the Western Conference - and in the MLS overall table - after spurning opportunities to do for more than a month.
Wolff hit for the only goal two minutes before the halftime break when he potted the rebound of a Jose Burciaga Jr. shot that Metro goalkeeper Jonny Walker could only parry to give the Wizards just their second victory in their last seven matches while extending the MetroStars winless run to four games.
"We're always looking for two (goals), and against the MetroStars, you never feel one goal will do it," Wizards coach Bob Gansler said. "We had opportunities, but didn't put them away. It's nice to win 1-0, too. One was enough tonight."
Gansler made three changes to the team that lost 3-1 away to the Chicago Fire at midweek. Shavar Thomas returned from injury, coming back into central defense as Taylor Graham returned to substitute duty. Matt Taylor and Francisco Gomez came into the midfield, replacing Igor Simutenkov and Alex Zotinca.
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Matt Taylor (Justin Detter 87), Jack Jewsbury (Diego Walsh 56), Francisco Gomez (Taylor Graham 63), Diego Gutierrez - Davy Arnaud, Josh Wolff.
Simutenkov did not play after starting at midweek, suffering from hamstring pain that he arrived to the stadium with. Jewsbury was taken off after a tough collision with MetroStars defender Kenny Arena, suffering what
"What we wanted to do was put our stamp on the game, be in charge," said Gansler. "We wanted to push forward, then defend immediately when we turned the ball over."
Preki's return from a dislocated ankle and broken left fibula suffered during preseason came to an end after just three appearances when the club announced he will undergo surgery for further repair on his ankle, ruling him out of further action this season.
"Obviously, if I can't move the way I want to move, I shouldn't be out there," Preki said. "I don't want to step on the field if I'm not my old self. I don't want to play when I can't play up to the level I'm used to. ... "I just need to be healthy, and this is what I need to do right now."
Since being left out of the starting lineup for a 2-1 loss in Columbus, Josh Wolff has returned to the first XI with a vengeance, scoring in each of the three matches since (hitting for three of the Wizards four goals).
The match against the MetroStars was the Wizards final of the season against Eastern Conference. They have home and away contests remaining against San Jose, Colorado and Los Angeles.