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After the Dream Week, Wizards Set To Host Toronto

Posted on 31 July 2010 by Nate Brinson

The Kansas City Wizards have experienced a truly magnificent week. Their 2-1 victory over Manchester United last Sunday drew worldwide attention, particularly with the Wizards forced to play the entire second half with ten men after Jimmy Conrad’s red card. The Wizards organization could not possible have imagined that everything would go so well. The 52,000 fans in attendance (a newa Kansas City soccer attendance record) saw Peter Vermes’ team at its best. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made several key saves. The back line remained organized even after Conrad’s expulsion. Stephane Auvray impressed in his holding midfield role. Davy Arnaud’s storming runs forward were rewarded as he bagged the first goal against the Red Devils. Ryan Smith and Kei Kamara gave the United defense fits on the wings, and Sir Alex Ferguson singled out “the big lad up top”, aka rookie striker Teal Bunbury, for his impressive performance.

Perhaps even more vital to the Wizards organization was what happened after the game. In part inspired by the victory over Manchester United, the club sold 700 new tickets alone the day after the game. The club has sold a total of 1,100 new season tickets this past week for the 2011 season when they will open their new stadium.

Now, the team must find a way to put all of the hoopla behind them as they return to league play at CommunityAmerica Ballpark against Toronto FC. Two weeks ago, the club snapped a three game losing streak with a 1-0 road victory over Eastern Conference leading Columbus, and then picked up a point in a 1-1 draw with the Rapids in Colorado.

The turnaround in form is due in part to Vermes finding a successful starting eleven. Shavar Thomas, recently acquired from Philadelphia, has been an improvement in the center of defense. The midfield trio of Auvray, Craig Rocastle, and Arnaud has been able to control the center of field, and Bunbury’s physical presence has opened up space for Smith and Kamara on the flanks. The new starting eleven has finally displayed the type of fast-paced, high pressure, and free flowing game that the team showed in their 4-0 defeat of DC United in the season opener in March.

Meanwhile, Toronto enter the game after a 1-1 draw at home in league play against FC Dallas, and a 1-0 victory over Honduras side CD Motagua in CONCACAF Champions League play.

For both teams, concentration will be a key factor. For Toronto, the game in Kansas City is sandwiched between two continental games as the team will travel to Honduras on Tuesday for the return leg. Toronto would certainly like to atone for previous failures in the competition (including failing to qualify as Canada’s representative in 2008). However, the Reds would also like to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the club’s history as they currently occupy the final playoff spot.

For the Wizards, they must find a way to harness all of the positive energy from the past week and not be distracted by it. The attitude in Vermes’ side has certainly skyrocketed, and while the team is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, a hot streak can easily vault them back into the hunt similar to the 2008 end of season run.

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