One week after exorcizing their demons at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the Kansas City Wizards will spend this weekend at a dress rehearsal of sorts.
The Wizards will take on AC St. Louis in the second leg of the Supporters Showdown on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park. In the process, many of the players on the Wizards’ new-look roster will get their first taste of life on the road, a dry run, so to speak, before Kansas City braves its first MLS environment two weeks from now in Seattle.
"It's getting into a routine of how we do game day on the road," Wizards head coach Peter Vermes said. "A lot of the guys are going get a feel for what it’s like to go into another place where the field is going to be different. Everything is going to different since we've only played at home."
While the team adapts to life away from CAB, it will also get a pressure-free chance to build on a start that can only be described as ideal after dominating United 4-0 last Saturday.
The Wizards controlled that match with dogged pressure in the first half that forced United’s backline into hurried clearances and turnovers. In the second half, Kansas City’s fitness helped them bury former manager Curt Onalfo’s charges.
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who played his college soccer at St. Louis University, said the team walked away from their season opener thoroughly satisfied by the result but determined to improve in the two weeks before the Colorado Rapids at CAB.
"It’s still a time where we can build on some things from last weekend,” Jewsbury said. “There were a lot of good things, but at the end of the day there are a lot of things that we need to work on and continue to get better at. This gives us a good chance against a great opponent to test that."
The Wizards defeated St. Louis 2-0 in Kansas City two weeks ago in the first leg of the exhibition series. Though the visitors never worried the Wizards, their compact shape was difficult to break down at times.
No matter the result, the match is a win-win situation for both sides. St. Louis gets an opportunity to test itself against an MLS side before starting its season, and Kansas City can continue building game fitness and working itself into a weekly rhythm.
Jewsbury said he is looking forward to returning to his collegiate stomping grounds and that he is sure St. Louis would support the team as it looks to establish itself in a city with an established soccer history. The midfielder played 90 minutes against D.C., scoring a goal and making a triumphant return to the field after having offseason surgery on his hip.
Like Jewsbury, Kansas City is determined to start the season quickly, putting itself in a position to decide its own playoff destiny. First priority is bringing the inaugural Supporters Showdown title back to Kansas.
Second is continuing the development on the field to keep the early momentum rolling towards an eventual playoff berth.
"The last three, four years this has been a team that has made the playoffs in the last few weeks of the season,” Jewsbury said. “Looking forward, we want to put our stamp on things a bit earlier and have a style of play that will give us a opportunity to really solidify ourselves in the standings.”