Solid Start to ’08 Season

 

Wizards 2, DC 0.  Match reports abound: KC Star, MetroSports, MLSnet.com, Washington Post, and DowntheByline.  Or, better yet, see the game’s highlights and a fan’s pictures.  And last but not least, post-game quotes from HillcrestRoad, as well as a Word file with those I compiled: KC-DC Post Game Quotes

Some stats that stuck out to me:

  • KC is now undefeated in their last nine home openers, improving their all-time home opener record to an amazing 10-1-2.
  • While attendance was announced — and much publicized — as a capacity crowd (10,385), it certainly looked closer to the ’07 home opener mark of 7,438.  Sadly enough, Saturday’s chilly and windy weather was considerably more fan-friendly than last year’s mid-week debut during a rain storm. 
  • The 10,385 sell out was — as is to be expected — below the Wizards all-time home opener attendance average of 13,968, as well as the 2008 MLS Week 1 attendance average of 15,312.   KC drew the lowest, though not by much — New England had just 11,116 for their MLS Cup rematch.
  • Claudio Lopez and Ivan Trujillo’s goals were part of a remarkable trend in MLS Week 1 action.  12 of the 15 goal scorers are international players.  That’s 80% of the goals scored, despite making up just roughly 33% of the player pool (121 out of 358 players, according to the current MLSnet.com player registry).
  • The two goals scored against DC’s Zach Wells were more than he had allowed all of last year in MLS play (4 appearances, 3 starts) as Pat Onstad’s backup in Houston.  His lone goal conceded was a pk.
  • Jonathan Leathers rookie debut made him one of only three players taken in this year’s SuperDraft to start the season opener (Ely Allen and Brian Edwards did as well).  No first round draft pick started, though two were used as second half subs (Ciaran O’Brien and Andy Iro).  Finally, Michael Gavin was the only Supplemental Draft pick to start — a feat accomplished last year by KC’s Aaron Hohlbein.
  • Claudio Lopez’s cheeky chip is a nominee for MLS Goal of the Week.  Go here to vote.  
  • The Wizards reserves defeated Drake 4-0 on Sunday.  Details by HillcrestRoad and DowntheByline, and pictures are posted here.
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Matchday in KC

It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for. MLS First Kick. It’s been 20 weeks since the Kansas City Wizards were last in action and the new year has brought a new place to play and new faces in a new uniform. It’s game 1 of 30, Kansas City vs. DC United (MetroSports, Ch. 5, DirectKick, MLSlive.tv, 1480 AM, 1340 AM). Forecast calls for 45 degrees and cloudy at kickoff with 14 mph winds.

The Kansas City Star gets you ready for the game and the season with Wizard player profiles, MLS team capsules, and a match preview…. Jimmy Conrad shares his 2008 predictions…. President Robb Heineman invites you out tonight…. Sean Kosednar gives a video match preview…. and the KCWizards.com game guide.

ESPN.com’s Ives Galarcep has this to say:

Two teams that made dramatic changes to their rosters square off in a battle featuring Argentine stars Marcello Gallardo and Claudio Lopez. The battle between Kansas City’s revamped attack and D.C. United’s rebuilt defense will be one of the best of the weekend, but it will be Kansas City pulling the upset as Lopez makes a memorable Wizards debut. Wizards 2, D.C. United 1.

While Pat Walsh at goal.com goes with the opposite:

The Gist: Kansas City begins life in their new, albeit temporary, home against the team in MLS best suited to play on a field that includes part of a baseball diamond. D.C. United spent much of the past three seasons sharing RFK Memorial Stadium with the Washington Nationals and will not be confused by seeing two large yellow poles behind the goals. In addition to knowing how to play around second base, each team will debut their new Designated Players signed in the offseason.

Why You Should Care: Claudio Lopez, Kansas City’s new DP, will be expected to replace the scoring of the departed Eddie Johnson. The Argentine will team up with Colombian Ivan Trujillo to lead the revamped Wizards offense. Those two will face United’s new Argentine and Colombian defenders Gonzalo Peralta and Gonzalo Martinez, respectively. D.C. also will debut their own DP in Marcelo Gallardo, who replaces his compatriot Christian Gomez as United’s new attacking midfielder. As United has a pair of Champions’ Cup games under their belts, they will have the advantage on opening day with their new acquisitions.

He’s So Hot Right Now: Devon McTavish. Luciano Emilio broke out in United’s second leg against Harbour View, but McTavish, who had never scored a professional goal prior to this season, leads D.C. with three goals in two games. Though the midfielder has mostly finished easy tap-ins, his success is a product of United’s ferocious attack that can let anyone, even McTavish, score multiple goals.

Prediction: D.C. United 2, Kansas City Wizards 1

And to whet your appetite, check out highlights from the teams’ three meetings in 2007.

What are your predictions? How long until the first goal in CAB soccer history? And who gets it?

Peruse the News

The Wizards’ Media Day was a success yesterday, as you’ll see below.  Finishing touches are underway on CAB, right down to the finest details: suites are being renamed after international soccer stars, Wizards-specific concession stand signs are ready to cover those from the T-Bones, MLS advertising boards surround the field, blue nets are on the goals, and the pitch’s surface looks immaculate.  And the concession menu may put traditional tailgating out of business, it’s that good.

As for the team, I’ll leave that analysis to the paid professionals.  Enjoy the widespread Wizards coverage while ya can:

  • FOX 4 once again leads the way in local online television coverage.  Interviews with Jimmy Conrad and Chance Myers, as well as a clip from Curt Onalfo and Peter Vermes’ opening commentsPhotos, too
  • Kansas City Star gives the Argentinean guys some front page love.  Only partly included in the online article is a well put together graphic, “What Wizards Fans Should Expect at CAB.”  It shows parking options in the area and a seating chart for the stadium.
  • Jimmy Conrad steals the spotlight in the national media with an appearance on MLSnet.com’s Extra Time, comments on The New York Times’ GOAL blog, and an upcoming QnA with USA Today.  He was also on air last night with the first epsiode of his weekly radio show.
  • On the season preview front, I’ll only highlight the most prominent: ESPN.com’s written by Andrea Canales.  Well, 3rd Degree’s too, but only because Buzz predicts a first place finish and league honors for Curt Onalfo and Jimmy Conrad.  And there’s always an exception for Becks: the Wizards made his official website yesterday, too. 
  • Finally, MetroSports will show their first episode of Wizards Weekly tonight at 9:30.  It is always well worth watching, though I’d bet there may be a few Wizards who will be missing it in favor of March Madness.  Kevin Hartman, Jimmy Conrad, Sasha Victorine, and Chance Myers all have UCLA to root for against Western Kentucky; while Kerry Zavagnin and Michael Harrington’s North Carolina takes on Washington State.  The other two Wizards’ schools represented, Michigan State (Ryan McMahen and Rauwshan McKenzie) and Wisconsin (Aaron Hohlbein) play tomorrow.  How about all 9 guys’ alma maters advancing to the Sweet Sixteen?  Impressive.

Wright’s Writing

I try not to post often with content that altogether doesn’t apply to the Kansas City Wizards.  The last time was when I uploaded ESPN’s special soccer feature on Private First Class Nick Madaras, a video that has now been watched 6,600 times on YouTube in the last two months.  This ocassion merits such special attention, too.

First highlighted by Du Nord last Friday, ESPN The Magazine’s special 10th anniversary issue — on newsstands now — include’s an incredible piece on the 2010 World Cup to be hosted in Africa for the first time.  Written by former Kansas City Star sports reporter and University of Missouri alum Wright Thompson, the piece takes an in-depth look at the magnitude and meaning the event will have on the people and fate of South Africa.

It would be funny if it weren’t true.  The stakes seem overly dramatic to an outsider, especially someone from America, where sporting events are vehicles for selling cheeseburgers, motor oil and estate planning.  A successful World Cup will foretell a long-lasting African democracy?  A failed World Cup, a civil war?  That’s absurd, right?  But in harbor bars and airport customs lines and township shebeens, many Capetonians talk of the event as if it were a $550 million tarot card.  “We are expecting 2010 to save South Africa,” Skosana says.

Not included in the online version of the article is a graphic depicting the construction of Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium.  It came as particular interest to me given the Wizards current stage of stadium design for the Bannister Mall site, also scheduled to open in 2010.  In addition to details concerning flexible seating capacity for post-World Cup use and aesthetic modifications to the lighting to prevent obstructing the Ocean-front view, is this interesting information on noise control:

No one likes noisy neighbors.  Especially not the thousands of homeowners who reside near the venue.  But Green Point isn’t a dome.  And asking 68,000 fans to sit on their hands isn’t an option.  So what’s plan C?  Meet the double membrane.  The partial roof is made up of distinct inner and outer materials.  The inner surface, which will face the crowd, is a soft, fiberglass composite that absorbs and disperses sound waves.  The outer is a hard, undulating surface that reflects any escaping sound waves back into the stadium.  It adds up to a noise reduction of six decibels from the previous stadium, which held only 18,000 people. 

Fascinating to read and it really gets the imagination going on just how sweet a stadium the Wizards could be playing in two seasons from now, especially given the ownership group’s pledge to build a premiere facility.  Also of note in the issue are the inclusions of DC United as the 10th most dominant player/team of the last 10 years and 5th best season (1999) of the last 10 years.  Houston’s 2007 season, when they defeated Kansas City in the Conference Finals, was ranked as the 9th best season of the last 10 years.  Lastly, looking ahead 10 years, the magazine comically predicts 4 billion viewers will watch the 2018 MLS Cup, making it “by far TV’s most-watched event ever.”  Ha.

Tuesday Practice Report

Today was a light day of training at the Wizards’ Swope Park Training Center.  After a 20 minute warmup that incorporated some conditioning, dynamic footwork, and a diagonal passing drill, the guys were separated into 4 teams to play 6v6 for the remainder of the chilly and windy session.  With a field set up sideline-to-sideline on each of half of the pitch, the teams rotated after playing two 5-minute halves versus one another.  Team Green (Lopez, Zavagnin, Hohlbein, Marinelli, Myers, and Hartman) and Team Yellow (Sealy, Jewsbury, Harrington, William, McMahen, and Pardo) seemed to be the stronger sides by my estimation, but the open-field, fast-paced nature of the small-sided scrimmages allowed for a multitude of good goals, saves, and shots off the post for all the teams. 

As for an injury report, Kevin Hartman’s left hamstring/quad was wrapped prior to practice; he looked unhampered by it in between the posts.  Captain Jimmy Conrad did not practice, citing his left hamstring — also heavily wrapped — as the cause.  He jogged several laps around the field during the session, as did rookie Roger Espinoza who is recovering from a broken foot.  Finally, Davy Arnaud participated in the warmup but did not play in the 6v6.  After practice, he took a few half-hearted shots on goal.  Lastly, Lance Watson (broken foot) is quite the juggler on crutches.  Sitting or standing up, the boot on his left leg didn’t keep him from getting in an ample amount of touches.

Also of note, I believe open tryout product Nelson Pizarro was working out with the team today.  He played with the Wizards’ reserves on Saturday in their loss to SMU.  Tomorrow the Wizards will conduct their first practice at CommunityAmerica Ballpark at 10 am, followed by the team’s media day.

Tuesday Tidbits

  • Captain Jimmy Conrad spent Monday in Manhattan as Mr. Media Man.  The first product from the trip is this BigThink.com video: Jimmy Conrad Talks About Retiring From Soccer.
  • KCWizards.com has posted promotions for each of the team’s 15 home games this season.  Of note, the September 13th Galaxy game has an asterisk next to CommunityAmerica Ballpark.  No explanation is given for this, but it has long been rumored that this game would be moved to Arrowhead Stadium to allow for additional attendance.
  • I’m  headed out to Swope Park Training Facility for this morning’s training session, where Davy Arnaud will participate in practice for the first time since his microfracture surgery.  Look for a practice report later this afternoon.

Monday Musings

“We’ve experimented with three in the back (this preseason) and we’ve kind of regressed back to what we were comfortable with before with four,” Hartman said. “I think the fact that we were able to prove to ourselves that we could capably defend with three in the back has really added a bit to our confidence.”

  • This from two weeks ago, but worth revisiting.  The blog Not Just a Hat Rack graded all MLS teams on their financial performance (ticket sales, stadium situation, major corporate support, designated player or coach, and financial intangibles) and ranks the Wizards at the bottom of the bunch.  As far as I can tell, it’s an honest attempt at an informed, objective analysis.  What do you think? 

14. Kansas City (13 points out of a possible 50): They say KC is 100% Chiefs’ country, but with the spendthrift, hopeless Royals as your only other Major League competition, the Wiz/Wizards should have made more inroads in 12 years. They rank dead last in MLS historical per game attendance (not including Miami – financial mismanagement in an entirely otherworldly orbit). They have no jersey sponsor, no shovel in the dirt for a stadium and they’re facing two years of oblivion in a minor league baseball park. On the bright side, new ownership hasn’t been afraid to make big changes: Curt Onalfo might be one of the smartest, most genuine people in the sport; they hired away an MLS stadium veteran from HOK to coordinate their stadium development and the signing of DP Claudio Lopez might make them a contender. Still, the franchise remembered as the home of the ‘Zard Card, Price Chopper promotions and Jetsons’ sound effects exists only because Lamar Hunt had a wallet even bigger than his heart.