KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Suddenly, it seems the Wizards are starting to see some of the good fortune that eluded them during the first half of the season.
Toronto FC came to CommunityAmerica Ballpark Saturday night hoping to break Kansas City’s streak of results with a physical, bruising approach. And, for most of the match, that game plan looked good enough for a scoreless draw.
But in the end, rookie Teal Bunbury’s header in the 62nd minute found a way over Stefan Frei, off the crossbar and across the goal line to seal a 1-0 victory and reignite Kansas City’s playoff hopes.
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“It’s nice for all the guys to see that when we do work hard, grind it out and do the little things that we’re going to get rewarded,” captain Davy Arnaud said. “We didn’t get rewarded when we were going through the stretch in the middle of the season, but lately it seems like it’s kind of turning for us.”
That might be a little bit of an understatement.
After suffering through an early winless streak that stretched to eight games, Kansas City has won two of its last three league games with a victory against Manchester United mixed in for good measure.
That three-game stretch marks the longest run without a loss for the Wizards since last season and puts the team just four points out of a playoff spot thanks to Bunbury’s second-half goal.
After scoring the game-winner against Columbus two weeks ago on the road, the rookie jumped on a botched clearance by TFC defender Adrian Cann and lifted a header from the top of the penalty area over a scrambling Frei for the game’s only goal.
“I looked up and he was really far out,” Bunbury said. “The ball was kind of in mid-flight so I thought if I would have taken it down, he would be too close for me to try to slide it in. I just felt like heading it would be the best thing.”
Manager Peter Vermes complimented the goal, but even he thought Bunbury might have picked the wrong finish initially.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision because it didn’t seem like it was high enough,” Vermes said. “At the end, it went in the back of the net.”
Neither team was particularly threatening on Saturday night, especially in the first half when Toronto’s physicality kept the Wizards from playing the high-pressure, quick-passing game they used to great effect against Manchester United.
The Reds were whistled for 10 fouls in the first half while both sides combined for two shots on goal and only one legitimate scoring opportunity.
“We got away from our game plan a little bit in the first half,” Vermes said. “And I think that we thought that because we played three good games here recently, everything was going to be easy. And it’s not that way.”
Kansas City will take any luck it can get after a season that looked in jeopardy just two weeks ago.
“I think we’ve figured out what was wrong and we’ve kind of steadied the ship,” Jimmy Conrad said. “We have some momentum. To be honest, I think we’ve deserved a little bit of good luck.”