On Saturday night, the Wizards and all of MLS, returned from their two week hiatus during group play of the FIFA World Cup and began the second "half" (more like two-thirds) of the season.
The Wizards took on the New York Red Bulls Saturday night at Community America Ballpark failing to score a goal and ultimately losing 3-0.
But, for now, as was kind of the theme in the previous post, more "getting to know" the team for anyone that may be just starting their soccer fandom. A quick rundown of where the Wizards stand and how they got there, shall we?
March 27 - Wizards: 4-0: DC United
With the large roster turnover from last season to this, no one really knew what to expect from the Wizards before the season started. Things kicked off on a cold and rainy night in Kansas City with the Wizards taking rival United, and former Wizards manager turned United manager Curt Onalfo, behind the woodshed for a good old-fashioned beatin'. Winger Ryan Smith scored one goal and assisted on another from Kei Kamara, while Davy Arnaud blasted home a rocket from 20 yards out and Jack Jewsbury made it 4-0 on a well taken penalty kick. There was little United resistance, which made for the perfect opener to the season.
April 10 - Wizards: 1-0: Colorado Rapids
Each team came in unbeaten and looking to establish themselves as contenders in their respective conferences - Kansas City in the East and Colorado in the West. In a game that saw few chances on goal Wizards keeper Jimmy Nielsen managed to snuff out Colorado's best scoring opportunity of the game with his face, while Kamara scored his second goal of the season with a well taken snap header off a Smith free kick. The Wizards had started 2-0 and soccer writers were starting to take notice. The publicity came, but was it all a bit too soon?
April 17 - Seattle Sounders: 1-0: Wizards
For 91 minutes, the Wizards matched Seattle chance for chance and were absolutely deserving of the point in the standings for a tie. Then, in the second minute of stoppage time in the second half, the KC backline flinched for only a second and Seattle capitalized with the winning goal by Michael Fucito. The fact that the goal should have never occurred, due to the player throwing the ball in being allowed to run far more length down the sideline than a player should be, (and was even acknowledged by MLS afterwards) offered consolation to fans that the Wizards could play with anyone in the league and hold their own. To add injury to insult, central defender Jimmy Conrad left the game in the first half with a calf strain that would keep him out the next two games. Wizards' goalless streak: 132 minutes and counting (which will become a theme)
April 24 - Kansas City: 0-0: LA Galaxy
In a game that saw the Wizards look like the better team for 90 minutes against the top team in the league, the highlight (or lowlight if you're a Wizards fan) came in the 16th minute when Kamara made world headlines for all the wrong reasons. In what quickly became the new ‘miss of the century,' Kei somehow managed to slip on the wet field, land on the ball - sitting on the goal line - and squirt it across with his upper arm. He was rightfully called for handball and neither team built up much more pressure on goal the rest of the game. Wizards' goalless streak: 222 minutes and counting
May 1 - Houston Dynamo: 3-0: Wizards
Conveniently taking place on "May Day," the Wizards trip to Space Town came crashing down to earth in a heaping pile of sucktitude. This season's newly appointed captain Arnaud was sent off with a straight red after a questionable call on a questionable challenge against the Dynamo keeper. Already playing down a goal before going down a man too, KC was able to put little pressure on Houston before the game was sealed up with a pair of second half goals to embarrass the Wizards. Wizards' goalless streak: 312 minutes and counting
Match highlights (if you can call them that)
May 5 - DC United: 2-1: Wizards
Later that week, in what would be the Wizards' only ESPN network televised game of the season, against a team they had dismantled on opening night, KC continued to look lost in the opponent's third of the field and the theme of silly defending gaffs continued. As has been the case with the US national team in the World Cup, going down a goal or two early makes life difficult. Two Danny Allsopp goals for United in the first half crippled KC's hopes of ending 1) their three game winless streak, 2) their points-less on the road streak, or 3) their dreadful goalless streak until the 93rd minute, when Kamara got his third of the year on a meaningless goal coming off a Teal Bunbury cross, mercifully ending the streak at 404 minutes. Zero points in the last four games, and a season that started so brightly was spiraling downward quickly.
May 15 - Wizards: 2-2: Chicago Fire
Bad news on the injury front: holding midfielder Stephane Auvray has strained a knee ligament earlier in the week in practice and would require arthroscopic surgery. He has yet to return to the field to date. So, down a goal in the first half and then another three minutes after halftime and we were headed down the same ugly path that was the month of April. Then, something changed. Perhaps it was the soccer gods feeling as if they had given KC fans enough torture for the time being, or maybe it was the team finally playing closer to their potential. Kamara fired home a second half brace (soccer jargon for ‘two goals') and the Wizards were tied at two. After the first, you knew a second was coming. After the second, you knew a third was coming. It nearly did when Josh Wolff fired a laser beam from the 18 yard box, just over the crossbar. Either way, they had fought back from certain defeat and rescued a valuable home point. This had to be the start to another positive run of results, right?
May 23 - Wizards: 0-1: Columbus Crew
Wrong. To many, Columbus is known as "the most boring team in MLS." Not that they play "bad" soccer, but they do play "boring" soccer. Their strategy - lots of extended periods of possession including lots of backwards passes - is unquestionably efficient; it just leaves a lot left to be desired from a game. All it took was a single slip up from the KC defense to leave one man unmarked on a corner kick for the Crew to bang home a header for the game's only goal.
May 29 - Real Salt Lake: 4-1: Wizards
Real Salt Lake are the defending MLS champions. They are a very good team and deserve much credit for that. But, there is no way the Wizards had any business being embarrassed in such fashion on this day. A total lack of concentration and a severe lack of attention to the minor details doomed them from the start. After the game with Chicago, regular leftback Roger Espinoza left the team for World Cup camp with his Honduran teammates. In his place, coach Vermes switched regular rightback Michael Harrington into his spot on the other side of the field. And on this day, Real took severe advantage of rightback replacement Jonathon Leathers. Real winger Fabian Espindola ran circles around Leathers all day. Though two of the four goals came after the 80th minute, the game was in little doubt most of the way.
June 5 - Toronto FC: 0-0: Wizards
This was the kind of game that sets the sport of soccer back six steps in America. Even as an avid soccer and Wizards fan, this was the quintessential, ugly, boring zero-zero soccer draw that people hate on so badly. They had all the right in the world to talk after this one. After recent struggles not only on the road, but at home too, a point is a point. Especially on the road.
June 10 - Wizards: 2-0: Philadelphia Union
Expansion teams are for beating up on, right? They're supposed to be an easy win when you look at the schedule. So, why couldn't the Wizards start the second half of the season against them, rather than to finish the first half? Regardless, the three "easy" points against the expansion Union were much needed. Heading into the game, the Wizards found themselves sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, with only Philly below them. It had been nine games since the Wizards had last won a game - the second game of their season, all the way back on April 10. Two full months without a league victory. Amazingly, with all the draws they sprinkled in throughout the streak, the Kamara and Graham Zusi goals helped move the team into fifth place in the East and only three points out of the playoff race. When Kei fired his missile from the corner of the 18 yard box in the first half for his sixth goal of the year, the Wizards also had their first lead in nine games.
As downright frustrating as they were at points this season, (and it was really frustrating) the Wizards could maybe finally be gelling at the right time of the season to put together a string of results and work their way up the standings. One this is for sure, though - they're going to be a team that nobody really wants to play. And, I hope that you'll come along for the ride.