The Kansas City Wizards come into Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal knowing they'll have to overcome a bogey team for the club in the San Jose Earthquakes.
"We haven't done good against them [the Earthquakes]," said Wizards fullback Nick Garcia, referring to San Jose's 2-0 whitewashing of Kansas City on Aug. 14 at Arrowhead and conjuring up images of last year's 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose in the Western Conference final. "They will punish you for the slightest mistake."
In their last meeting just 10 days ago, the Wizards were rusty from a 17-day league match layoff. Three of their shots struck the woodwork, they failed to hold significant possession, Landon Donovan ran roughshod through the heart of the defense, and Chris Klein suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee. Certainly, the Wizards took some heavy hits.
So what is needed to turn the tables in Tuesday night's showdown for the Open Cup Final? Wizards starting keeper Bo Oshoniyi, who will again be standing in for Tony Meola who is suffering from a right Achilles strain, thinks he has the answer.
"Play with the attitude they come with," said Oshoniyi, striking at what has led San Jose to championship success in the two of the last three seasons -- as well as a recent resurrection. "We need put our stamp on the game early."
The winner will gain the final of the 90-year-old tournament for the first time in either's history. But in truth, the winner can gain more in setting up the final run-in to the MLS Cup playoffs, with both sides having an opportunity to leave an impression on the opposition. "They've had our number. We have to send our message that we can beat them here in K.C. or in San Jose," Oshoniyi said.
Beating San Jose on Tuesday would bolster the Wizards confidence, recently buoyed by last Saturday's 2-1 defeat of the Revolution in New England, accomplished without regular left back Jose Burciaga Jr. who has been cleared to play in the Open Cup match.
"That was a win we needed," said Garcia. "It was hard fought, and we were happy with ourselves, that kind of work rate."
Not only did the Wizards work harder against the Revolution than in three defeats coming into the match, they were smarter. That combination should assist the Wizards in stemming the tide against San Jose.
"[We had] an intelligent work rate. If we get the lead [Tuesday] that will change things," said Garcia.
And the Wizards might also wise up to stopping Donovan's rule over the Wizards. The U.S. international scored both goals in the victory at Arrowhead 10 days ago, and last year scored four goals in the two meetings between the two teams in Kansas City before hitting for the conference-winning golden goal to claim a berth in the MLS Cup Final.
Garcia hinted at a new approach. "You might see a different look," he said.
Robert Rusert is a contributor for MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.