KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In the last two months, the Wizards transformed themselves from doormats into arguably the hottest team in Major League Soccer.
But for 12 minutes on Saturday night, they reverted back into the team they had seemingly left behind and it cost them dearly. Not only did Kansas City lose 3-1 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark to FC Dallas, but their playoff dreams suffered quite a dent.
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In a game billed as a matchup between the league’s hottest teams, the Wizards got burned almost immediately. David Ferreira, who ran the show all night for FCD, found a pocket of space and flipped a ball over the top to Marvin Chavez for a neat, volleyed finish just four minutes in.
Eight minutes later, the ball squirted through the backline to a wide-open Milton Rodríguez, who slotted the ball past a helpless Jimmy Nielsen.
“We got caught ball watching on a few plays,” Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad said.
Those two plays immediately formed a mountain too tall to climb for Kansas City against a Dallas side that has collected result after result since May.
“We didn’t really have long enough to feel like we were in the game,” said captain Davy Arnaud. “It was bang-bang, we’re down 2-0. We had some energy after that, but the game changes.”
With Ferreira pulling the strings, the rest of the game went exactly as FCD manager Schellas Hyndman would have wanted.
The Hoops sat back and hit on the break, forcing Conrad and Shavar Thomas into de facto playmaker roles, and walking away with three points that most likely locked up their own playoff destiny.
“The first 15 minutes, we were snoozing,” Wizards manager Peter Vermes said. “We were sleeping. We didn’t have juice. We gave away two goals that obviously set us back very deep early on in the game.”[inline_node:319249]
Unlike Wednesday’s rousing comeback victory against the Houston Dynamo, there was no late-game magic this time to save Kansas City.
Ryan Smith managed to pull a goal back in the 57th minute, but the Wizards squandered their remaining chances and second-half substitute Jeff Cunningham scored a late goal to guarantee Dallas their 17th consecutive league game without a loss.
“You can only go down two goals in so many games and hope to come back,” Conrad said. “I thought we showed a lot of character [on Wednesday]. That takes a lot of energy out of you. To be asked to do it again [on Saturday] is a tall order.”
Kansas City face another tall order as they continue their quest to claw back into the playoff field. The Wizards' main competitors, Seattle and San Jose, both won on Saturday and extending their respective leads in the wild-card race to six points over KC.
Vermes’ team has a game in hand on Seattle and, within their remaining five games, have matches against both the Sounders and the Earthquakes. But it seems more and more likely that Kansas City will need some significant help to sneak into the eighth and final playoff spot.
Before looking that far ahead, though, the Wizards have a tough task waiting next weekend, when they travel to take on a New York team fresh off a win against Los Angeles. To get a good result there, they’ll have to get over Saturday night’s loss.
“It’s just a shame to give away something like this,” Vermes said. “Not because we gave everything we had, it was because we were snoozing in the first 15 minutes. That’s the hard thing to swallow.”