KANSAS CITY, Mo. – To hear manager Peter Vermes tell it, Sunday’s 2-1 victory against Manchester United won’t be his side’s most important match this week.
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Vermes knows all about the impact the crowd of 52,424 could have on soccer in the Midwest, and he knows what the historic victory means to his players, Wizards fans and the legions of casual fans in Kansas City.
But the Wizards’ manager also knows his team is currently just seven points out of a playoff spot with 14 regular season games remaining and, as impressive as the victory over the Red Devils was, MLS doesn’t hand out points for friendly results.
“It’s a great accomplishment for our team and for our organization,” Vermes said, “but in the end, it’s an exhibition. What matters the most for us is the league and trying to win an MLS Cup championship.”
To some, that may sound like a far-fetched goal for a team that sits on a 4-8-4 record and, until last week, had little in the form of hope.
But even in defeat, the Wizards' play had been steadily improving leading up to Sunday’s victory, as Roger Espinoza returned from the World Cup, Stephane Auvray worked himself back from injury and rookie Teal Bunbury forced himself into the starting lineup.
In truth, Kansas City’s most pressing problem has been the habit of conceding easily preventable goals.
“We know that our record hasn’t shown what kind of team we are this year,” Davy Arnaud said. “We need to find ways to win games, and hopefully this gives us a lot of confidence going into the second half of the year. We feel like we are a team that can be in the playoffs and be competing to win every week.”
Buoyed by an improbable result against Manchester United, it is that faith that may just turn things around for the Wizards.
“As a group, we believe in ourselves,” Arnaud said. “We believe that we’re a good team.”
Kamara Makes All-Star Statement
At least one Wizard was disappointed by the fact that no Kansas City player was named to the 2010 All-Star game roster to face Manchester United in Houston on Wednesday.
After scoring the game-winning goal in the 42nd minute against the Red Devils, forward Kei Kamara, who leads the team with six goals, stripped off his jersey to reveal a t-shirt reading “KCW All Star.”
“I deserve to be on the All-Star team,” said Kamara, who made the shirt himself. “And I wasn’t on [the All-Star team], so that’s just my statement.”
Ferguson Commends Soccer’s Progress in the US
Sir Alex Ferguson spent a chunk of Sunday’s postgame press conference discussing his views on the progress soccer has made in the United States since the Red Devils last toured North America.
“I think that the game is improving in terms of the general play of the players,” Ferguson said. “Some United States players are doing well in Europe and in England. That is your best barometer. If they are going to Europe from the States and doing well – one, it tells you that your national players in particular, the ones who do go to Europe, are good enough; and secondly, it’s an encouragement to the young kids that are all playing soccer in America at this moment in time.
“I think you have to take the positives from that as a young country as far as football is concerned. When we came here the last time, it wasn’t nearly as big as it is today, so there is a general improvement. But there are big strides to make. I think 10 years from now you’ll see better results.”