All of a sudden, nobody wants any part of the red-hot Wizards.
Kansas City took the game to now-slumping Los Angeles from the opening whistle Saturday night at the Home Depot Center, applying pressure high up the field and putting together what will go down as their best complete performance to date.
“I think this was our best 90 minute performance in regards to putting everything together,” manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com over the phone after the 2-0 victory. “The guys really came together. They executed the game plan extremely well.”
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Its postseason dreams once close to dashed, Vermes’ team collected three invaluable points away from home against the MLS-leading Galaxy to continue inching its way back into a tight playoff race.
Kansas City (7-9-5, 26 points) have charged back up the table in the last month-and-a-half after reaching rock bottom in early July, compiling a 4-1-2 record in their last seven games and reviving their playoff hopes in the process.
After Saturday night’s results, the Wizards are now just three points behind San Jose, who currently occupy the eight and final playoff spot.
And although nine difficult and crucial games remain, the Wizards now feel as though they can outplay any given team on any given night. By winning in Los Angeles and Columbus this season, Kansas City have now won on the road against the league’s top two teams.
That’s not even mentioning a 2-1 victory against Manchester United last motnh that only further reinforced the players belief in the course they've plotted for themselves.
“We feel like we have confident enough team that no matter who we play, home or away, we have a talented enough group to win games,” said captain Davy Arnaud, who scored the opening goal in the 13th minute.
And, in truth, the Wizards could have easily walked away with an even more flattering margin of victory against the Supporters' Shield frontrunners. Birahim Diop, last week’s hero against the Revolution, had two quality chances pass him by while Ryan Smith, Kei Kamara and Arnaud caused havoc all night.
But despite the offensive output, even Arnaud admitted the effort started in the back. The Wizards, who normally tone down their high-pressure approach slightly away from CommunityAmerica Ballpark, never allowed the Galaxy time on the ball and kept Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle from making any notable impact on the game.
“The way that we defended tonight as a group, and the way everybody worked hard for each other was great,” Arnaud said. “I thought that was one of our best defensive performances of the year and not in an easy place to play.”
And as tempting as it is to read into such an impressive performance, Vermes isn’t allowing his team to get ahead of itself. A game against resurgent Philadelphia looms next week followed by crucial matches with Houston, Chivas USA and FC Dallas to close out September.
“We still have a long ways to go,” Vermes said.
But even those upcoming challenges won’t keep Kansas City from basking in the victory and collecting even more confidence as the season eases into its final acts.
“We’ll enjoy the win as a group,” Arnaud said. “I think we deserve to enjoy ourselves tonight, but it’s back to work when we get back to Kansas City.”