I don't think many people gave the Wizards a chance going into tonight's game against the Columbus Crew. The Wizards had not won in 8 straight against the Crew and on the road, where they hadn't won since September of last year. So not expecting much from this game was to be expected. But the Wizards showed up tonight and took the game to Columbus and pulled off a deserved 1-0 win over the Crew on the road.
A few changes were made to the lineup, as Teal Bunbury and Craig Rocastle came into the lineup, replacing Josh Wolff and Jack Jewsbury who moved to the bench. And both subs played good roles in the win. Things didn't start out well to start, though, as the Crew were the early dominate team in the game, holding KC in their end for the most part. But in the 14th minute, the Wizards broke out on the counter and made Columbus pay. On a poor corner, Roger Espinoza picked off a pass by Frankie Hejduk as he tried to keep the ball in. Espinoza fed the ball to Ryan Smith in the middle of the field, who played in Bunbury as he ran into Columbus' defensive third. With Davy Arnaud on the far side of the box, Bunbury took the chance himself and ended up 5-holing former Wizard, Will Hesmer, and giving the Wizards a 1-0, only their 4th lead of the season.
The Crew continued to control the game after the goal and had a great chance to equalize as Adam Moffat brought down a long ball and struck the ball from outside the box. Jimmy Nielsen came up with a great save though, getting his right hand up to parry the ball over the bar. Columbus also had a penalty shout as Rocastle went over the back of Jason Garey, and with the way the season has gone for KC you almost expected it to be called. KC continued to play the counter game and almost found the net again twice in the span of a minute or two. First Gino Padula almost put an amazing finish past his own goalkeeper on a cross from Smith, but it was right at Hesmer and the rebound was cleared for the corner. On the ensuing corner, Kei Kamara, beat Hesmer, but Eddie Gaven was on the post and was able to keep the ball out of the net.
In the second half, the Wizards were able to control some of the possession and keeping the ball more. The Wizards showed some of the play that helped them to control the game on Saturday against Chivas. Columbus still got their chances and thanks to Nielsen, the Wizards held onto the shutout. Smith gave the ball away to Hejduk and the ball fell to Guillermo Barros Schelotto who cut inside on Jimmy Conrad and fired a shot to the far post that Nielsen got his foot to, to kick wide. Gaven's rebound went well wide. Gaven had another shot later in the half, but his finish lacked pace and was right at Nielsen. In the 80th minute, the Wizards had their best chance of the second half to put the game away. Smith played in Bunbury behind the Crew defense. He dribbled around Hesmer, but this pushed him wide of the goal. Bunbury then crossed back in to Graham Zusi, but his header was saved by Hesmer on the line. With the rebound, Zusi wasn't able to get another shot before crossing back to Bunbury who was offside.
The Crew continued to throw more numbers forward to find the equalizer and as stoppage time came closer, they had another chance stolen from them by Nielsen. A corner was partially cleared to Emmanuel Ekpo who took a touch and fired in a shot through traffic that Nielsen did well to beat away. In stoppage time on a long ball into the box, Steven Lenhart headed a ball in on goal, but right at Nielsen. On the play Lenhart and Moffat knocked heads, leaving Lenhart with a bloody nose that kept him from coming back on the field. After the original 4 minutes became 7 due the head injuries to Lenhart and Moffat, the Wizards picked up their first road win of the season.
Overall a strong performance from KC on the road against a strong team. This is definitely a game to build some confidence off of going forward, because beating Columbus in Columbus is not easy to do. Nielsen came up with big saves, the Wizards took the chances that they came their way, and finished one well. Peter Vermes came in with a good game plan and the Wizards executed well. He made some changes to try and jump start the team and they paid off for him.
Wizards Man of the Match - Jimmy Nielsen - While Bunbury got the goal, the White Puma once again came up big for KC and gave the people that decide on the Save of the Week nominees 3 great options to choose from for this week. Maybe with 2 big saves in Colorado on the weekend Nielsen will sweep the nominations this week. While plenty of people had good games, Nielsen was the leader tonight.
Honorable Mention - Shavar Thomas, Teal Bunbury
Player Ratings - Nielsen 8, Harrington 6, Thomas 7, Conrad 6, Espinoza 6, Rocastle 6, Auvray 7, Arnaud 6, Kamara 5, Bunbury 7, Smith 6. Subs Zusi 5, Aiyegbusi NR, Diop NR.