A 4-1 victory on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes (13-10-7, 46 points) at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
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Finished the regular season in third place in the Eastern Conference on 39 points (11-13-6), seven points behind final playoff qualifiers San Jose.
Three things to take away
1) For the second straight season, Kansas City didn’t make the playoffs. However, there is no denying that the club took steps forward on the field and in the community. In his first full season at the helm, manager Peter Vermes improved the Wizards’ point haul by six, won three more games than a year ago and ingrained a pressing style of play among a revamped roster. On the organizational side, a sparkling new stadium is going up in the shadow of CommunityAmerica Ballpark and Kansas City are poised to add Designated Player Omar Bravo to up their league profile.
2) It won’t be a quiet offseason in Kansas City. With roster sizes across the league likely to expand, and with expansion sides Portland and Vancouver poised to cherry-pick existing MLS rosters to help build their own teams, this offseason is sure to be a busy one. Thus begins the process of reshaping the roster it put together in 2010 for the Wizards' coaching staff. Bravo will certainly Kansas City with their finishing and dead-ball issues, but the Wizards need to add depth up top and in the back to take the next step forward in their progression.
3) This team may have fallen just short of the playoffs, but there is plenty of reason to believe 2011 and beyond will be different. With a new stadium months away from opening its doors and substantial investments made in players and the club’s infrastructure, management is going to expect some a return on its investment in the form of a playoff appearance next season.
Looking at the Wizards' roster even before the inevitable offseason changes are made, that appears to be a very reasonable goal. The team has developed a strong, young core that should help them compete for years to come while mixing in veterans in the right spots on the field.
Consider this: Kei Kamara just turned 26, Teal Bunbury is still just 20, Ryan Smith is 23, Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington are both 24, and Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Jonathan Leathers and Chance Myers are all younger than 25.
Two players who stood out
[inline_node:321605]F Birahim Diop
What can you say about Diop? When it rains, it certainly pours for the most unlikely hat-trick scorer this season in Major League Soccer. The striker certainly frustrated Wizards fans at times with some inconsistent performances mixed in with a few moments of brilliance, but even if he isn’t on KC’s roster next season, the Senegalese journeyman has shown enough for someone to take a chance on his mercurial abilities in an expansion year.
GK Eric Kronberg
Kronberg didn’t have much to do in his first career regular-season start, but he made all the saves he needed to, kept the defense organized and distributed well out of the back. All in all, the start was a well-deserved reward from the coaching staff as the 27-year-old patiently waited for four years on the Wizards' bench for a chance.
One play that changed the game
Say what you will about Kansas City, but at least one thing has held true for them this season: When scoring first, they generally win. Once Diop beat Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch in the 36th minute, the home team looked primed to take all three points and did so in style, improving their record when striking first to 10-0-2.
The season is over, but the Wizards managed to finish 2010 on a high note, blowing out the playoff-bound Quakes in the club’s final game at CAB. One game won’t make watching the playoffs any easier for Kansas City fans, but they can be content knowing that a thrilling second half of the season helped lay the foundation for the future.
Before the Wizards can turn their focus towards 2011, the coaching staff will have to choose who the club protects in the expansion draft on Nov. 24, which could see up to two players depart for the Pacific Northwest.
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