Another week, another three points for the Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Unlike the 4-0 demolition of D.C. United two weeks ago, Kansas City won ugly, grinding out a rough-and-tumble 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids. Either way three points is three points, and the Wizards find themselves atop the Eastern Conference and undefeated through two matches.
After one more viewing in the books to get a true feel for the match, here are MLSsoccer.com’s player ratings from the Wizards’ performance on Saturday night.
Jimmy Nielsen (7)
Let’s be honest, Nielsen hasn’t truly been challenged this season so far. D.C. was punchless for the most part, and Colorado failed to take the few chances it got. Still, Nielsen has consistently been in the right place at the right time, and that didn’t change against the Rapids. He made the saves he needed to make look routine, and deflecting Omar Cummings blast off his face wasn’t a bad touch either.
Roger Espinoza (6.5)
Espinoza is still adjusting to his new role on the back line, but his defense seems to be coming along nicely. He won a handful of 50-50 balls in the first half, and Colorado manager Gary Smith eventually removed Medhi Ballouchy, the player Espinoza was marking for the most part, to give the Rapids a spark.
Matt Besler (6)
This was another solid match for Besler, despite a few scattered shaky moments. He has shown a tendency to overplay balls in the middle of the field so far this year, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. Besler’s distribution was solid again against the Rapids, and keeping Cummings and Conor Casey from finding any comfort zone was key to recording the team’s second-straight shutout.
Jimmy Conrad (7)
Following a match in which he took his share of blows, including a particularly vicious elbow from Casey to the cheek, Conrad could be seen receiving intense treatment from head trainer Chet North in the locker room. This won’t be the last time Conrad faces another hulking presence like Casey, and if Saturday’s performance is any indication, the Wizards don’t have too much to worry about. The veteran kept Casey off balance and frustrated all night, and got in enough shots of his own to call it even.
Michael Harrington (6.5)
Like Espinoza, Harrington was simply solid all night, using his speed to make up for any mistakes and playing simply and effectively. Colin Clark got a couple sniffs against the fourth-year defender before being removed, but the right side of defense figures to be a strength with Harrington and Conrad manning the lines.
Stéphane Auvray (6.5)
Auvray is still gradually acclimating himself to his teammates and the league, but he showed glimpses of being a very dangerous two-way player on Saturday night. Floating in front of the back four, Auvray shut down the Rapids’ passing lanes, but he also took advantage of his handful of opportunities to get forward. The final ball isn’t quite there yet, but that understanding will come with time.
Davy Arnaud (6.5)
Arnaud wasn’t nearly as active against Colorado as he was against D.C. United, but he picked his spots and nearly scored on an ambitious low drive in the second half. The veteran’s work rate was solid and he connected well, but Arnaud is going to have to be more involved in creating chances for the Wizards’ attack to really click.
Jack Jewsbury (6.5)
Jewsbury brings the Wizards energy and drive, two attributes that have been important to maintaining the on-ball pressure that has led to two shutouts thus far. Against Colorado, Jewsbury was the midfielder consistently applying pressure high up the field and making it uncomfortable for the Rapids to possess the ball. He left early to preserve his fitness as he recovers from offseason surgery, but Jewsbury seems to have his spot on the field locked up right now, especially considering injuries to Santiago Hirsig and Birahim Diop.
Ryan Smith (7.5)
This signing is looking more and more like the steal of the offseason in Major League Soccer. Smith’s quick bursts and change of direction were just too much for Colorado’s defense to deal with, and he nearly created a handful of goals seemingly on his own. The dribbling skills he has shown through two games and his ability to measure a cross will make him a terror for opposing right backs. Now comes the more difficult part: staying healthy with so much attention paid his way.
Josh Wolff (6)
Once manager Peter Vermes realized Wolff was being isolated by Colorado’s center backs and Pablo Mastroeni, he shifted the veteran to a right-sided role. The move worked perfectly as Wolff became more of a threat with space to receive the ball, and Kamara made the most of his persistence up top. Wolff hasn’t found a rhythm offensively so far this season, but his work applying pressure to the opposing team’s backline has been valuable and underlooked.
Kei Kamara (8)
There is no doubt Kamara is still a raw talent, but as long as he keeps finding the back of the net, he will be on the field. His game-winning header was perfectly weighted to dip over the outstretched arms of Matt Pickens. Even more impressive was his play at center forward after halftime. He held the ball up admirably, and held his own against the Rapids’ bruising center back tandem, eventually drawing the challenge that ended Julien Baudet’s night.
Substitutes (Time on the field taken into consideration)
Chance Myers (6)
Myers’ performance wasn’t flashy, but he brought energy to the team and was a constant nuisance to Colorado’s back line for the last twenty minutes. Up a goal and trying to hold on for three points, it was exactly what Kansas City needed.
Teal Bunbury (6)
Well, we know one thing about Bunbury: He’s not afraid to take people on. Those forays forward didn’t work out on Saturday, but his fearlessness, pace and size will come in handy off the bench all season.
Craig Rocastle (5.5)
Rocastle was only in for 10 minutes, but he put on a master class on how to kill a game from the midfield. The highlight was the when he teamed up with Kamara and the two spent a minute or two frustrating the Rapids all alone in one corner.