At half time tonight I was writing off the Wizards season, I already had the title of this entry in my head was working on exactly how bad this result had been for KC, and was clearing the stage for the fat lady to sing. Then the second half started, and while the first half was still one of the worst halves of soccer I've ever seen a professional team play, the second half almost made me forget it. The Wizards showed amazing heart and character fighting back from a 3-1 half time deficit to defeat the Houston Dynamo 4-3 and keep their playoff hopes alive. The first time the team has come from behind this season to win a game.
Before we get to the dramatic comeback though we can't overlook the extremely poor first half KC played. And even with that poor play still could have gone into the half tied 3-3. Like many of KC's games this season, the team has held possession early on and it wasn't very different tonight, KC controlled the tempo, but Houston came in with a good game plan, they attacked the wings, allowed KC to push forward and then tried playing the ball over the top. In the first half at least, Peter Vermes was again out coached by Dominic Kinnear. Thirteen minutes in the half, Houston had the lead. Kei Kamara lost Mike Chabala on a give and go, over committing to Brad Davis, who Michael Harrington was covering. Chabala received the give and go back from Davis and crossed into the middle where Cam Weaver had beaten Roger Espinoza to the ball and slid it past Jimmy Nielsen and into the net. After the goal, KC continued to push the game and were almost level through Kamara who received the ball on the right and fired a hard shot that beat Pat Onstad in goal, but didn't beat the cross bar as it bounced back out into play. Ryan Smith had a chance well saved by Onstad, the rebound fell to Birahim Diop but he had already over ran the play and couldn't get back in time to get a touch.
In the 34th minute, the Wizards back line again fell prey to Houston's long balls over the top strategy, as Weaver headed a long ball into the path of Dominic Oduro, who beat Shavar Thomas to the ball and then beat Nielsen, giving the Dynamo a 2-0 lead and signaling the fat lady to get ready. Only a minute later, though, the Wizards found themselves back in the game, as Craig Rocastle calmly picked out Kamara on the right, and in almost a carbon copy of of his attempt that hit the cross bar, Kamara was unmarked and this time buried his shot to pull KC within one. Houston, though, came right back down the field, and won a free kick from just inside KC's half. Davis played in a great ball, that Thomas poorly cleared right across the face of goal where Adrian Serioux just had to tap it in past Nielsen to give Houston a 3-1 lead that they'd take into the half time break.
To start the second half, Vermes adjusted tactics, pulling the ineffective Diop and Stephane Auvray and inserting Teal Bunbury and Jack Jewsbury. The substitutions almost paid off immediately as shortly into the second half Kamara picked out Jewsbury with a nice cross, Jewsbury's header back across goal beat Onstad, but Bobby Boswell cleared it off the line to keep Houston's 3-1 lead. Jewsbury had another good attempt off a cross from Harrington (a theme in the second half),but his bicycle attempt, while pretty looking, didn't seem to trouble Onstad that much as he easily held it. KC found themselves back within a goal on the hour mark thanks to Onstad. Onstad, who is remembered by many Wizards fans for his humorous own goal he scored for KC in 2003 during his time with San Jose, slipped on a goal kick and played the ball right to Bunbury. Bunbury broke in 1-v-1 on the Houston keeper and slotted it through Onstad's legs to pull KC within one and start real come back thoughts in fans heads.
KC continued to pressure looking for the equalizer, mainly down the right hand side through Harrington's overlaps of Kamara, and in the 71st, found the equalizer. Harrington played a fantastic cross into the middle of the box where it was met by Smith with a right footed volley. The volley deflected off of Serioux and into the net, going down as an own goal, but making it 3-3 and it certainly didn't feel like that was the end of the goals. After the equalizer it continued to be basically one way traffic as KC looked to find the winner. Smith hit a shot that just skimmed the post, and Kamara had another shot that was cleared onto the post and out for a corner in the 85th minute. Originally there were set to be five minutes of stoppage time, and plenty of worry set in that with injuries to Houston players being milked that KC wouldn't find that 4th goal. But in the 96th minute, a long goal kick from Nielsen was met by Harrington, who one timed a cross into the box where it was met by Josh Wolff, whose header from the penalty spot beat Onstad to the low corner and gave the Wizards a 4th goal and a dramatic winner to keep their playoff hopes alive. An epic turnaround from the team's first half performance in a must win they pulled it out when they had to.
Wizards Man of the Match - Michael Harrington - Whether you blame him for part of the first goal or not, he was huge in the second half, setting up two of the three goals and being a menace down the right side the entire half. And other than the first goal, Davis was not heard from during the run of play.
Honorable Mention - Kei Kamara, Jack Jewsbury
Player Ratings - Nielsen 4, Harrington 7, Conrad 4, Thomas 4, Espinoza 5, Auvray 4, Rocastle 5, Arnaud 5, Kamara 6, Diop 3, Smith 6. Subs Bunbury 6, Jewsbury 6, Wolff 6.