New Mexico Cup

The Wizards will face Guatemala’s CSD Municipal at 8 tonight in the inaugural New Mexico Cup.  Some short notes on the matchup:

  • The game will be played at midfielder Lance Watson’s alma mater, University of New Mexico.  Watson, the 16th overall pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, was on the Lobos’ 2005 national championship runner-up side.  Watson has been sidelined by a fractured foot since preseason and is still listed as out on the latest injury report.
  • The game will not be played at the university’s superb soccer complex, but rather at the university football stadium.  The soccer facility seats 5,000 thanks to a men’s program that annually ranks among the top supported programs in the nation.  The football stadium, also a grass surface, has a capacity over 38,000 and has hosted soccer before: USA v. Mexico for Women’s World Cup qualifying, and USA v. Honduras in a men’s international friendly. 
  • Several KC players are not expected to play, including starters Claudio Lopez, Sasha Victorine, Roger Espinoza, and Scott Sealy. 
  • About the opponent, CSD Municipal won the 2008 Clausura in Guatemala’s Liga Nacional.  The squad boasts several Guatemalan national team players, many of whom played against the US last June in the Gold Cup.  They are led by club legend Juan Carlos Plata who has made 504 club appearances, scoring 392 goals, and has 88 caps for Guatemala, scoring 35 goals at the international level.  Also of note is rising star Marvin Avila, who at 22 has gotten increased attention after scoring twice for the national team last October, the equalizer and match winner, in Guatemala’s first victory over Mexico in nearly nine years. 
  • Three CSD Municipal players have MLS experience, most notably Guillermo “Pando” Ramirez who scored the 2005 MLS Cup game winner for Los Angeles in extra time.  Mario Rodriguez and Fredy Garcia both appeared for the Columbus Crew for one season each. 
  • CSD Municipal is also well known for producing MLS star striker Carlos Ruiz.  Guatemala’s all-time leading scorer, Ruiz made 143 appearances and scored 59 goals for Muncipal.  He debuted at 16, after joining their youth system at age 12. 
  • CSD Municipal has played four MLS teams, most recently facing Houston in the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals in March.  Houston advanced 3-1 on aggregate.
  • HillcrestRoad will be providing a running commentary for the match.

Other Wizards notes:

  • The team looks set to play partner club Atlas AC of Mexico on Friday, July 11th at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.  Tickets go on Sale Monday.
  • MetroSports’ Brad Porter reports that technical director Peter Vermes went to Hungary last week on a business trip.  Very interesting information.
  • Finally, the KC Wizards U-15 and U-16 Juniors qualified for the playoffs in the Midwest Regional League, the MRL announced yesterday.  The U-15’s are 4-2 with 17 goals for and 4 goals against.  They finish league play today at 2 pm at Swope Park vs. Springfield SC 92/93 with second place in the Southwest Division on the line.  The U-16’s finished top of the Southwest table at 5-1-1 with 22 goals for and 6 goals against.  Both teams will try to garner promotion to the league’s premier division via the playoffs. 
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Thursday Tidbits

The Wizards will partner with Kicks 4 Kenya, a non-profit initiative to support soccer in Kenya and raise money for mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria.  Last summer, the Wizards supplied balls, jerseys, and shoes to the Iowa college couple behind the effort, whose time and philanthropy in Kenya last summer are documented in these videos: Kenya 2007 and Good Times in Kenya.

KC rookie Jonathan Leathers, currently in France with the US U-23 team, was named 2008 Furman Male Athlete of the Year.  Jon is the first two-time award winner in school history.  As far as I can tell, Furman’s two most notable soccer standouts — US national teamers Clint Dempsey and Ricardo Clark — never won the award.  Jon will suit up again tomorrow against Ivory Coast at 11:30 am on FSC in the Toulon Invitational.

TheBestEleven.com produces two maps showing where the Wizards come from, domestically and internationally.  It’s an interesting geographic representation, and timely too — seven Wizards will be in their home state as the Wizards play Los Angeles on Saturday.

For those who have forgotten what CommunityAmerica Ballpark looks like while the Wizards are on their 2-month road trip, comes this video slideshow posted on YouTube earlier this week: T-Bone Evolution, showing the baseball stadium’s conversion into an all-grass surface.  For what it’s worth, the T-Bones sit in first place at 6-1, and bring a five game winning streak into their home opener on Friday.

Speaking of CAB and, more generally, stadiums, I stumbled across this interview with Wizards President Robb Heineman posted last week on LiveWithJay: Wizards a Winner for Kansas City.  Two disclaimers: it’s 33 minutes long, and it appears to have been done in late February.  Neither takes away from what is a fabulous, open discussion of all things Kansas City Wizards and Ongoal LLC.  Well worth a listen to Robb and business journalist Jay Libenguth.  On a related note, Robb has joined the world of Facebook so here’s your chance to befriend a multi-millionaire.  

One of the things touched on in that audio piece is Spanish-speaking Wizards’ fans, so on a related note comes this q&a en Espanol with Wizard playmaker Carlos Marinelli.

Former Wizard Chris Klein is poised to set an MLS record on Saturday against his old team.  The Galaxy right back will likely start his 94th consecutive MLS match, breaking the record held by current Wizard goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.  Ironically, Hartman set the record as a member of LA and Klein began his current streak in KC.

Other milestones that may be accomplished on Saturday: if both play, it will be Jack Jewsbury’s 125th MLS appearance and Kerry Zavagnin’s 250th appearance for KC.

Lastly, the Wizards partner club, Atlas AC of Mexico, was eliminated in the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals last night after suffering a 3-0 home loss to Argentina’s Boca Juniors. A first half hat trick by Martin Palermo and an Atlas ejection early in the second half sealed the fate in front of 70,000 fans in Guadalajara.

News and Notes

Wizards rookie Jonathan Leathers started at right back and played the full 90 for the US this morning in the Toulon Invitational Tournament in France.  At half, he switched to the left side where much of the Turkish attack had been originating.  In the end, the U-23’s fell 3-2 to an impressive U-21 Turkey side and will next face Ivory Coast on Friday at 11:30 am.  

On a related note, the only US player to ever garner an individual award at the Toulon tourney?  Former Wizard Josh Wolff, whose 5 goals in the 1997 tournament tied for tops with French phenom Thierry Henry.  Wolff was released by his German Bundesliga 2 side, 1860 Munich, earlier this week, but was selected to the U.S. squad by Bob Bradley for next Wednesday’s friendly at England.  Former Kansas City teammate Eddie Johnson joins him on the 22-player roster.

Kansas City’s partner club, Atlas AC of Mexico, will try to eliminate historic Boca Juniors tonight in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals.  Having tied 2-2 in Buenos Aires last week, Atlas has the luxury of two away goals, an even goal differential, and home field advantage (where they defeated Boca 3-1 during the group stage).  The Guadalajara club has only participated in the Copa Libertadores once prior to this appearance, falling in the 2000 quarterfinals.

Finally, some milestones worth mentioning from last Saturday’s 1-1 tie in New York: Davy Arnaud tied Matt McKeon for 6th on all time regular season games played (144) and passed Tony Meola for 7th on all time regular season minutes played (11,342).  Scott Sealy passed Chris Klein for 3rd on all time regular season offsides (74).  Sealy is 2nd in the league in that category this season.

The Good And The Bad So Far

The Good and the Bad so far

By Tony Felich

The season is still young, but it’s not too early to evaluate how our team is doing. I have been able to watch every minute of every game so far and despite the last five games being relatively disappointing, the team has managed to maintain a 3-3-2 record. I say disappointing because one gets the feel ing the team is underachieving. Despite youth and inexperience, the Wizards seem to have the right pieces; they just need to get them in the right places with cohesion and consistency. They have been guilty of trying to sit on small leads and not playing with consistent intensity at all positions all the time. They have had moments of brilliance for sure, but so far they’re not quite firing on all cylinders. While the long term future of the Wizards is exciting, I’m hoping we’ll start seeing that future be realized this season. I would like to note the good and the bad so far, as I see it.

The Good

1. OnGoal Ownership Group. The six principals that make up the OnGoal ownership group have proven to be top notch. There are all sorts of squirrelly owners in professional sports, and generally multiple owners are a challenge to team progress, but it seems OnGoal has Continue reading

News and Notes

    ~ Biggest news of the day: Rookie Jonathan Leathers was named to the 22-player roster for the US U-23 team that will compete in the Toulan Invitational Tournament in France.  The US will play Turkey, Italy and Ivory Coast later this month — all on FSC.  The team arrives in Toulon on Thursday, so Leathers will be unavailable for the Wizards next two matches: Saturday at New York and next week at LA.  Leathers has appeared for KC in four games this season (three starts), but has not played in the team’s last two games and was not on the 18-man roster at Columbus.

    ~ Former Wizards Amir Lowery and Yomby William, both waived last month to allow for the addition of open tryout participants Kevin Souter and Nelson Pizarro, are training with other teams in MLS.  Yomby is in Salt Lake where he took part in their reserves match versus Dallas yesterday.  And Amir has played for both New York’s reserves on May 2nd and San Jose’s reserves on May 4th

    ~ Following New York’s 2-1 victory over LA on Saturday night, an MSG network anchor previewed the Red Bulls next game: Saturday, May 17th against the Kansas City Lizards.  Hmm.

    ~ Finally, Kansas City’s partner squad, Atlas AC in Mexico, advanced to the quaterfinals of Copa Libertadores with their 2-2 draw against Argentina’s Lanus last week, but will miss out on the Clausara league playoffs after drawing 0-0 yesterday in their two-leg series with Necaxa and losing out on the regular season record tiebreaker.  Atlas faces Argentine superpower Boca Juniors on Wednesday in Copa Libertadores action.

Crew 2, Wizards 1

   

Against the top team in the league and on the road, the Wizards couldn’t make many mistakes if they expected a positive result.  The boys in blue made several on Saturday, the first coming in the 4th minute of the game as Columbus opened the scoring on a Guillermo Barros Schelotto freekick.  Tyson Wahl hacked down the Argentine 30 yards from goal after being nutmegged, and then was beaten by Chad Marshall on the ensuing service to the backpost.  Marshall’s high arching header looped across the goal mouth where three Wizards (Jimmy Conrad, Jack Jewsbury, and Michael Harrington) were outjumped by Adam Moffat, whose header beat a hesitant to come out Kevin Hartman. 

The Crew’s lead was then doubled through a cheeky bicycle kick through ball played by Alejandro Moreno.  Miscommunication between Hartman and rookie Chance Myers allowed the speedy Robbie Rogers to tap the ball into the open net in the 34th minute.  Two minutes later, Myers’ fellow first round draft pick Roger Espinoza complicated matters when he was sent off for a deliberate forearm to the chest of Frankie Hejduk.

Lucky to be at the half only down two, the Wizards second-half performance was sparked by the halftime insertion of Scott Sealy.  The Trinidadian drew a soft penalty when he went down after a Danny O’Rourke shirt tug was whistled instantly in the 78th minute.  Claudio Lopez converted it for the Wizards, hitting it hard and low down the middle.  Why didn’t Jewsbury step up to the spot, as he did in the Wizards only other penalty attempt of the season?  Listeners to Thursday’s Jimmy Conrad Show know that there was some gamesmanship going on between Jewsbury and former Wizard and current Crew keeper Will Hesmer.  The two bantered about their confidence facing a familiar foe should the situation arise on Saturday.  Sure enough it did and Hesmer — 2 for 2 on pk saves this season prior to Saturday — was forced to face newly acquired and therefore unfamiliar El Piojo.  

Video highlights here.  KC Star and Columbus Dispatch both with separate stories by Shawn Mitchell.  On Sunday, the Wizards reserves tied Columbus reserves 1-1.  Ryan Pore missed a pk in the match.

The Wizards are off next week before returning to action at New York on May 17th.  After starting 2-0, Kansas City has gone 1-3-1 in its last five, scoring just three goals in the stretch (two from the pk spot). 

Friday Round-Up

  • Greg Lalas featured KC in his April wrap-up piece earlier this week.  His “Five Reasons to Watch KC” has some solid points and this particularly poignant line: “Claudio Lopez is the most exciting thing to hit KC since barbecue sauce.”  He also credits Chance Myers, CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Bruce Arena, and the attacking mentality as deserving attention.
  • Reports out of Columbus say the Crew’s Argentine defender Gino Padula will not play tomorrow because of a knee ligament strain; he will likely be replaced by veteran Ezra Hendrickson.  Also, goalkeeper and former Wizard Will Hesmer (2004-06) will be a gameday decision after suffering a dislocated shoulder last week against Houston.  His backup is local boy Andy Gruenebaum (Overland Park, Blue Valley North HS).  
  • Adding some spice to the Sunday reserves game, the Crew were interested in new developmental signing Kevin Souter but were under the impression he was ineligible.  The Wizards waited until the new waiver order was set following week 4 and, due to Columbus’ hot start, had priority over the Crew.
  • Hillcrest Road links to a write-up on Ryan Pore in his hometown paper.  Mansfield, Ohio is 65 miles from Columbus and the article says Ryan will have 600 supporters in attendance for the match — which could be his 50th MLS appearance.  Ryan is returning from a broken nose.  
  • The game is also a homecoming of sorts for rookie Roger Espinoza.  The Ohio State product spent his junior year in Columbus, reaching the national championship before signing with Generation Adidas and entering the draft.  
  • On a related note, Kevin Hartman was born in Athens, Ohio, approximately 75 miles from Columbus.
  • The matchup also features a reunion with former player and assistant/interim coach Brian Bliss, now in his first season as the Crew’s technical director.  
  • And last but not least, let us all wish David Beckham a happy 33rd birthday today.  MLS’ poster child gets to celebrate in, of all places, Salt Lake City.