KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmy Conrad danced a little jig. Ryan Smith borrowed a supporter’s flag and waved it high above his head. Kei Kamara came up with the most unique celebration of all, crafting a homemade banner out of a corner flag and his jersey.
Minutes earlier, the Wizards had done the unthinkable, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the Houston Dynamo, 4-3, on a dramatic goal by substitute Josh Wolff in second-half stoppage time.
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With the season hanging in the balance, Kansas City and their supporters fully enjoyed one of Major League Soccer’s most thrilling victories this season on a balmy Wednesday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
“It was party time,” Wolff said of the feeling in the stadium after his header found it’s way past a diving Pat Onstad. “We had a lot of balls go off the posts, the crossbar and couple off the goal line. One of those games where you just aren’t sure it’s going to go completely in your favor, but we deserved it.”
They certainly did.
After two incredible months, the Wizards (9-9-6, 33 points) and their supporters have every reason to believe that this team is capable of not only making the playoffs, but making noise once there.
Manager Peter Vermes’ team still has a long way to go to accomplish either one of those things, but Kansas City are 6-1-3 in their last 10 league games and full of belief after suffering through a difficult first half of the season. They are now just three points behind Seattle, who currently hold the final playoff spot with a game in hand.
[inline_node:319015]“We’re on a mission,” Vermes said. “The guys believe that we are because they want it just as bad. We’re not the best team in the league, and we’re not the worst. We’re a team that can compete.”
Most teams would have given up after going a going down two in the first half, but the Wizards soldiered on, sending wave after wave at the opposing goal in the second half.
Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen watched the comeback from afar, throwing himself to the ground when his teammates couldn’t quite put the ball away, but then celebrating with the Cauldron as the rally progressed.
“It was an unbelievable comeback,” Nielsen said. “We totally changed our mentality in the second half. It’s easy to say after that that was how we should have started the game, but we didn’t. Credit to Houston, they killed our game.”
But the Dynamo couldn’t kill the Wizards faith.
First, Teal Bunbury took advantage of Onstad’s slip on a goal kick to narrow the deficit to one. Then Adrian Serioux redirected Smith’s shot for the tying goal to set up Wolff’s dramatic game winner.
“We had nothing to lose at that point down two goals,” Conrad said. “There was a vibe that there was nothing to be afraid of. We just kind of went for it. We had a good feeling, a bounce in our step.”
And now there are three more points in the Wizards pockets with another test coming on Saturday against FC Dallas. And even a matchup against the hottest team in the league won’t keep Kansas City from enjoying this one, even if the focus will shift tomorrow morning.
“Tonight was a big moment for us,” captain Davy Arnaud. “When you get results like this, it feels like something is kind of meant to be.”