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First road trip of ’09 takes Wizards a mile high

Posted on 27 March 2009 by khowell

Wizards hit the road for first time in 09

The young Major League Soccer season presses on this weekend as the Kansas City Wizards travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids. The match marks the Wizards’ first trip away from CommunityAmerica Ballpark in the 2009 season as well as an opportunity for the club to get back on track. Kansas City lost their season opener at home last week, 3-2 to Toronto FC, and recent road results do not bode well as the Wizards posted a 2-8-5 record away from home last year. The Rapids, meanwhile, fared no better last weekend, surrendering a 0-1 lead to Chivas USA, who outlasted Colorado, 2-1 in Carson, Calif. The Rapids finished 2008 out of the playoffs and return to Dicks Sporting Goods Park looking to wipe the slate clean of their past disappointments.

Despite the 3-2 loss, the Wizards flashed moments of lucidity against FC last weekend, pressuring on defense and creating some opportunities for themselves. Davy Arnaud seems to have picked up where he left off last season offensively, scoring against Toronto on two long range blasts. Santiago Hirsig, this year’s Argentine midfielder of note in Kansas City, subbed into the game in the second half and provided the set up ball for Arnaud’s second goal. Hirsig is not yet considered match fit and will likely continue in his substitute role at Colorado but his interplay with Arnaud and the rest of the Wizards should be cause for optimism in Kansas City.

On the other side of things, however, the Wizards’ young defense appears suspect after last Saturday’s performance. While Kansas City prefers to pressure opponents in their attacking third, FC repeatedly caught the Wizards with too many men forward. Twice in the first half, Forward Chad Barrett found himself with space to run behind the KC back line and but for some poor finishing could have easily put the Wizards away before halftime. When John Brennan scored FC’s first goal of the night, he received the pass in nearly the exact location vacated moments before by KC defender Jonathan Leathers, who was up-field overlapping Graham Zusi in attack. If the Rapids catch KC off guard as often as Toronto did, it could spell doom for the Wizards.

Of course, exploiting any lack of awareness in the Wizards’ backline is exactly what Colorado intends to do and they likely have the weapons to do so. Colorado’s goal against Chivas last week came largely from goalkeeper Zach Thornton’s mishandling of the ball but the buildup up to that strike was no fluke. Forward Omar Cummings positioned himself well to score the Rapids’ lone goal and received decent service from Colorado’s midfield for much of the night. Meanwhile, Connor Casey spent much of last Saturday tying Chivas’ defense in knots and had at least one solid effort turned away by the goal post. The Rapids unloaded 17 shots on Chivas USA last week and, while only four of those were on target, that sort of barrage might be too much for the Wizard’s shaky defense. If Casey or Cummings or Colin Clarke or even Mehdi Ballouchy gets in the head of KC’s backline, it could be a long night for the Wizards.

The Wizards aren’t the only team with defensive deficiencies taking the field at DSG Park, however. Colorado’s back line imploded in the second half against Chivas, allowing Paulo Nagamura to score twice in four minutes with one goal coming off a poor clearance by Kosuke Kimura. Kansas City can take advantage of those slips as well as anyone, with experienced strikers and midfielders ready to bury any defensive slip ups or surprise Thornton from long range.

With teams as young and dynamic as the Rapids and Wizards, however, the outcome of this game may fall to something more intangible. Historically, the Rapids hold a serious advantage over the Wizards at home with a 13-4-5 record in the rocky mountain air. On the other hand, the Wizards will not want to go home on Saturday with two losses on the season and might take inspiration from such circumstances. So early in the season, it might be too early to tell who will control a matchup like this one. Regardless, both teams will want to take points from this game or else risk starting their 09 season in a serious hole.

4 Comments For This Post

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    The Wizards hit Dick's Sporting Goods Park in their first away match of 2009 after losing their first game at home to Toronto FC.

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