Man Utd Fans at Swope
Gary Rohman

Preview: Wizards vs Man United

It may not count for anything in the standings, but this afternoon’s exhibition match against Manchester United means plenty to Kansas City.

For the Wizards, the opportunity to take the field against the Red Devils – in Kansas City no less – represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to step on the pitch for 90 minutes alongside the world’s best.           

Captain Davy Arnaud has a pretty good idea where Sunday afternoon’s game will stack up when he takes stock of his career.

“This is a game that will be right up there at the top,” he said. ”I’ve been with this club for a long time, going on nine years now. If you would have told me when I first came here that I would be sitting here right now, I would have said you were crazy to be honest.”

Yet, there was Arnaud and manager Peter Vermes fielding questions next to Sir Alex Ferguson and Edwin Van Der Sar at a press conference at the swanky Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday.

And as much as they plan on enjoying the experience, the Wizards still want to win. Kansas City has no plans to lie down or abandon its style of play, hoping to stick with United long enough to pull off the upset that Philadelphia couldn’t quite manage on Wednesday.

“I think it would be foolish for us to sit back just let them play,” defender Jimmy Conrad said. “I think we have to really face them up and go toe to toe. If they are better than us at a certain moment, you just try to react and play defense accordingly.”

Make no mistake, Kansas City certainly knows that there will be plenty of times to sit back and defend. Even though the Red Devils do not have their full complement of players, Wayne Rooney the most notable absence, Vermes emphasized that there will be times to be adventurous and others to be cautious.

“They are who they are,” he said. “We keep going back to it, but it’s Man U, and we have to be smart. I think the guys are going to go in with the right mentality for sure. It’s a big match for us and the organization.”

Fortunately for the Wizards, their midseason form and fitness should give them a fighting chance against a technically and tactically superior Red Devil side. The Union pushed United to their limit before succumbing to a goal by young winger Gabriel Obertan and settling for a 1-0 defeat.

Kansas City’s biggest advantage may even come in the form of the weather. Forecasts called for heat and humidity that Manchester United won’t be used to playing in across the pond.

“Playing on a Sunday in the middle of the afternoon isn’t easy anywhere in the Midwest,” Conrad said. “We are going to try to take advantage of that as well and try to make the most of the moment.”

And it’s a big moment to be sure. It’s not everyday that a club like Manchester United makes a stop in the Midwest.

So even though the result won’t count for anything in the standings, Conrad and the rest of Wizards will be playing for three points and respect. But more than anything Kansas City – the city, the fans and the team – will simply savor the experience.

“I have a lot of Manchester United highlight tapes from when I was kid,” Conrad said. “To have a chance to run around with Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs is going to be a big deal for me.”

Truthfully, it will be a big deal for everyone involved.