Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wizards Finish Preseason Undefeated

The Wizards finished out their preseason last night up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa getting a win and a draw against the Minnesota Thunder to finish the preseason 5-0-5. The first game saw what would appear to be the likely starting lineup next week taking on the Thunder's starters. Kansas City pressed the game early, and in only the 4th minute, Herculez Gomez was brought down on the far side of the field about 18 yards out. Claudio Lopez curled the ball into the the area where it took a bounce and past the keeper, who appeared to be screened, and into the net to give the Wizards the early lead. The Wizards continued to dominate play in the first half, earning multiple free kicks in dangerous positions inside the Thunder's half, most of the efforts were unimpressive, the best being another effort from Lopez, that like the first was played in from the right, bounced in the box right after Josh Wolff tried to get a flick on, and in front of the keeper, who seemed surprised the ball made it through to him, he parried it away where it was then cleared for a corner. Those were the Wizards two best chances in the first half, two chances that looked more to be crosses into the box than shots.

The Wizards made one change at half time, bringing on Kevin Souter to replace Davy Arnaud as a precaution for Arnaud's knee. "My knee was a little sore, but it's fine," Arnaud told me after the game. And with the field the way it was, it was probably the right more to take the precaution and remove Arnaud from the game. The field when I got there looked to be in poor condition and as the game went on it just got worse. Players were sliding and falling over, especially along the sidelines where it was just mud from where football players stand during games. At half time and after the first game was over, staff was out stomping the field down, but it didn't seem to do much good either time.

The Wizards started the second half off the way they finished the first half, dominating the play. And again the Wizards were able to grab an early goal, as Lopez ran down the left wing he had his first cross blocked, but the ball came right back to him, which he then played square into Jack Jewsbury who was 15 yards out. Jewsbury made no mistake slotting the ball into the corner to give the Wizards a 2-0 lead. As the half went on, the Wizards continued to make changes, with Abe Thompson coming in for Gomez and Matt Besler coming in for Jimmy Conrad. Then in the 67th minute, Thompson got in behind the Thunder defense on the right hand side, he played the ball back to Graham Zusi, who took a touch and was getting ready to shoot when a Thunder player slid in getting some of the ball, but more of Zusi. The referee made no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot and handing out a yellow card. "I know the first initial touch was mine, and then I tried to swing for the ball, but I'm not sure how he called the foul." Zusi said of the penalty call. "In MLS I don't think that foul gets called."

Lopez stepped up to the spot and slotted the ball into the corner without the Thunder keeper making a move for it. Four minutes after that goal, Lopez finished his night as both he and Wolff were subbed out for Roger Espinoza and Michael Kraus. In the 79th minute the Wizards finished up the scoring with probably the best goal of the night as the combination play was fantastic. Jonathan Leathers started off the play with a long ball over the top to Kraus on the right hand side of the field, who brought the ball down well, turned inside and played a ball to Thompson who was in the middle of the field. Thompson immediately played a diagonal ball to the left into the box for an on rushing Espinoza who took a touch and then buried the ball at the far post, similar to his goal he scored for Honduras. After that goal, the Wizards made their final sub, bringing off Jewsbury for Kurt Morsink. The Wizards were able to kill the rest of the game and take the 4-0 win.

Wizards Man of the Match - Claudio Lopez
Two goals and an assist for Lopez, a good night overall for him.

Due to the deteriorating conditions of the field, the two teams decided that they were only going to play a half of the second game involving the reserves. All the players that came on as subs in the first game, started for the reserves and were joined by Rauwshan McKenzie, Nelson Pizarro, Matt Marquess, and open tryout participant Austin Williams. Kansas City came out quick again, and opened the scoring in the 10th minute through Kraus. After that though, the game seemed to turn more towards Minnesota, as they got the majority of play and looked the more likely to score, with Boris Pardo making a few good saves early on. Pizarro had a nice volley from about 30 yards out, but it was straight to the keeper, JD Warman and Josh White were also introduced into the game as the half went on. In the 38th minute White slipped a bit on a long ball over the top. The Thunder player moved into the area as Pardo rushed out. Pardo dove for the ball, but missed and got the player. The referee had no choice pointing to the spot and giving a red card to Pardo. Into the game came the other open tryout participant, Chad Becker. While Becker guessed right on the PK, the Thunder tied the game at 1-1.

KC pressured a bit more after that, but their best chance came with virtually the last kick of the ball as Espinoza curled a free kick, but it was an easy dive and save for the Thunder keeper.

Wizards Man of the Match - Michael Kraus
Got the Wizards only goal and didn't look too bad going forward the rest of the game.

Overall, two decent performances for the Wizards. The event as a whole wasn't horrible, but I don't think it was that much of a success. With $30 tickets for people that didn't attend the clinic earlier in the day, the ticket at first glance appeared a little high. Add in that I had to pay $10 to park as well and I wasn't completly surprised that the announced attendance was only 1171. Yes it was for a good cause in helping flood victims, but that's quite a bit of money to spend for a preseason game.


brucio said...

good to see you man!

Lightning Striker said...

Thanks for the commentary on the events in Cedar Rapids, from a traveling Thunder Supporter. There's a good group of us coming down for your team's MLS Opener next Saturday.

I look forward to seeing some of the KC Brigade that we've met over the years, and enjoying some of the famous KC BBQ. See ya'll at the tailgate.

I really appreciated the comments about the first games referee, it seems it was pre-season for the players, fans and referees.

Peace and futbol from the frozen tundra.

Neal aka Lightning_Striker @

Anonymous said...

From someone who attended, that was a very good assesment of the evening. A few extra observations: First, the evening was a success if you factor in the press coverage that it got the Wizards, the fact that there were many at the camp who had tickets but weren't able to come for various reasons, and that nearly 1,500 people actually paid $30 for a ticket. However, the price was WAY too high for the casual fan and the $10 parking was a a) a joke and b) not even announced! If they are to hold this event again and gain fans in the area, it is imperative they make it affordable and eliminate the parking fee. If that isn't at Prairie, so be it. The field deteriorated into a mess anyway. Final note, the referee was Terry Vaughn. A WCQ and MLS referee who lives in Mt. Vernon, just a few minutes down Highway 30.

Mike said...

Actually I believe Vaughn was just the 4th official Saturday night.