(August 31, 2007) – The Kansas City Wizards (9-9-5, 32 pts), entrenched in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, complete a three-game in eight-day road trip Saturday against the Houston Dynamo (11-7-5, 38 pts). Houston, currently first in the West, poses a tough test to the Wizards, holding the best goals against average (0.70) and one of the best offenses in MLS (1.30 goals per game). Kansas City will look to break through against the Dynamo this season after Houston shut out Kansas City 1-0 June 24 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Saturday’s match, broadcast live at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Español, will pit strength against strength as the Wizards fast-paced offense looks to challenge Houston’s well-organized defense. Likewise, Houston’s aerial threats will look to connect on set pieces against a Kansas City defense that has allowed six corner-kick goals this season. The Wizards offense has been paced by speedy striker Eddie Johnson (13 goals, t-2nd in MLS) and the service of three high-performing midfielders. Sasha Victorine (7 assists) ranks 3rd in MLS. Davy Arnaud (6 assists) is tied for 4th, and Carlos Marinelli (5 assists) is tied for 10th. With the return of Arnaud after sitting out Wednesday due to yellow card accumulation, the Wizards midfield should be back and full strength.
Houston and Kansas City both enter on sub-standard runs of play in MLS competition. Houston enters 1-2-2 since the All-Star game. Kansas City has gone 2-4-1 in MLS play over the same stretch. Each team will be looking for a full three points to brace themselves in the standings as clubs come down the stretch toward the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs. Each team has seven games remaining in the regular season. Houston, while on top of the West, is only two points clear of second place FC Dallas while Kansas City holds a five-point lead over Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids who are currently tied for the 8th and final playoff spot. The Wizards are a lone point behind third-place Red Bull New York in the East, though New York has a game in hand on Kansas City.
Several Wizards players are nearing career milestones as goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, defender Nick Garcia and forward Eddie Johnson near significant benchmarks. Hartman is 12 saves away from becoming the 3rd goalkeeper in league history to pass the 1,000 save plateau. Former Wizards ‘keeper Tony Meola holds the all-time record with 1,136 career saves. Hartman, depending on his performance in the next few games, could record save number 1,000 as soon as Saturday, September 15 vs the Columbus Crew. If Hartman makes 33 saves in the remaining seven matches (4.7 saves/match), he will pass Scott Garlick for second on all the all-time MLS saves list (1021).
After sitting out Wednesday’s match, Garcia is now set to tie former playmaker Preki’s all-time appearance mark Saturday against Dynamo. Should he play in both the upcoming matches, Garcia will set the Wizards all-time appearance record at 218 against the Crew at home. Johnson’s next goal will be his 40th MLS tally. He has already set career highs this season in goals (13 so far) and assists (4). His previous highs of 12 goals and 3 assists were set in 2004 while with FC Dallas.