1-1 draw on Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids (6-4-5, 23 points, 4th place in West) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
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Fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 16 points (4-8-4)
Three things to take away
1) Kansas City are steadily rebounding from a disastrous May and June. For two months, the Wizards couldn’t buy a result, especially on the road. After winning in Columbus midweek and nearly walking away with another surprising road victory in Colorado, manager Peter Vermes’ team is starting to build the confidence it showed early in the season. KC will have to embark on a torrid run to get back into playoff contention, but that is a much more realistic possibility today than it was even a week ago.
2) The attack is finally starting to flow again, even if the goals aren’t. KC scored just two goals in three games last week, but something finally clicked in the final third. For the first time in months, the Wizards looked truly dangerous, stringing together passes with a purpose and getting behind the opposing defense. Against Colorado, KC were clearly the superior side before running out of gas after the 65th minute. Still, the lack of goals from those chances is a little concerning.
3) Claudio Lopez was the X-factor for the Rapids. Jamie Smith provided the ball that cut open the KC defense late in the second half, but it was Lopez who truly turned the tide of the game. The classy veteran showed off his passing range and lightning-quick soccer brain in yet another brilliant substitute appearance that may have made Wizards fans wonder if the team made the right decision jettisoning him in the offseason.
Two players who stood out
1) Midfielder Craig Rocastle – Say what you will about Rocastle, but the man certainly has a motor that doesn’t quit. The combative midfielder was seemingly everywhere on Saturday, throwing himself into tackles, cutting down passing lanes and even finding Davy Arnaud with a beautiful lead pass for the opening goal. For now, at least, the Englishman seems to have curried favor with Vermes and should play a key role the rest of the season.
2) Forward Teal Bunbury – The striker followed up his first regular season goal by having another solid match as the center forward in the Wizards' 4-3-3 formation. His combination of speed and strength results in a difficult matchup for opposing defenders and causes different problems than the team’s other options at the position. As the rookie gets more time on the field, KC should see more of the play that helped set up Arnaud’s goal and saw a left-footed blast by Bunbury ricochet off both posts.
One play that changed the game
During a first half that the Wizards dominated, Bunbury drove through three defenders to the top of the 18-yard box and unleashed a shot that smacked the right post, rolled across the goalmouth, hit the left stick and popped back into the penalty area. Had the shot been inches to the left, Kansas City would have been up 2-0 on the road with a great chance to coast to a second-straight victory. As it was, Bunbury and his teammates were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw and one point.
A draw may be a little disappointing considering KC had firm control of the reins for two-thirds of the match, but it is a result the team will take after playing three games over eight days. In fact, it is a point the Wizards should be proud of. The Rapids are no pushovers, and the combination of fatigue, travel and altitude could have been a deadly cocktail. All in all, getting four points from the season series with Colorado has to be considered a victory.
Sunday, July 25, vs. Manchester United. With the All-Star break arriving, the Wizards get a chance to rest and recharge for the second half of the season, but not before taking on the world’s most popular team at Arrowhead Stadium. A packed crowd, world-class players and the opportunity to make a statement to themselves and the rest of the league should make this match a memorable one.