Jimmy Conrad called it having swagger. Matt Besler went with the more informal “swag.” Josh Wolff? He just called it getting the job done.
After collecting the fewest home points in MLS last season with 17 points from 15 matches at CommunityAmerica Ballpark (CAB), you can’t blame the Wizards for wanting to reestablish dominance on their home field.
It’s been a point of emphasis all preseason. Kansas City knows its home form will be the difference between a trip to the postseason and a second-straight year without playoff soccer. When the 2010 season kicks off Saturday evening against D.C. United, the Wizards will get their first opportunity to back up their words.
“We need to get our attitude right when we play at home,” Besler said. “It has to be a place where teams are going to come in and they’re going to be scared to play in Kansas City.”
The frustrating thing for the Wizards is that CAB was a veritable fortress in 2008, the team’s first season playing in the 10,385-seat stadium designed for independent league baseball.
Kansas City won nine games and tied four at home in that 2008 campaign, earning 31 points in the process. It was enough to render the team’s dreadful road form a moot point and send it to the playoffs.
Opposing teams were unfamiliar with the abnormal dimensions of the CAB field two seasons ago, allowing the Wizards to dictate play and tempo. The field is not as wide or long as a regulation-size FIFA field because of space constrictions caused by the base paths and outfield walls.
Unfortunately, that distinct home-field advantage was short lived. Visiting clubs came to Kansas City in 2009 with experience to draw upon and an understanding of what it would take to get a result at CAB. That reversed the tables and made it a struggle at home for the Wizards.
Part of the reason for those struggles was the team’s anemic attack – Kansas City was second to last in the league with 33 goals scored. But even more damning was that only the New York Red Bulls gave up more than the 20 goals conceded by the Wizards at home.
“We just got frustrated,” Conrad said. “Teams would sit back and if the game didn’t go the way that we wanted it to in the first 20 minutes, we would lose our shape and lose our composure.”
With a rigorous preseason fitness regimen under their belts, the Wizards believe part of the reason for those defensive lapses is in the past. Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes has also retooled the roster, especially the midfield, in an effort to make the team capable of applying more pressure of its own.
The Wizards want to make it seem as though there is as little space as possible for its opponents to settle down and play. They want to make visitors uncomfortable, hurried and unorganized.
More importantly, Kansas City just wants to get its swagger back.
“We always kind of felt like we were under pressure at home,” Conrad said. “Now its time to shift that attitude and make other people come in and think, ‘Man, we can’t even breathe in this place’.”