Archive for Monday, April 26, 2010

Wizards battle Galaxy to tie

April 26, 2010

— The Kansas City Wizards had plenty of chances to hand the Los Angeles Galaxy their first defeat of 2010 on Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, but Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts came up big to preserve a 0-0 draw.

“It was a very ugly game in a difficult venue,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “No surprise that it was going to look like that. I think the conditions were magnified (because of the field). It was a difficult, ugly game. We knew that coming in, and we knew that when you leave.”

The first half started on an attacking note for the Kansas City, as the team’s pressure on the Galaxy back line led to some early defensive mistakes. Wizards forward Kei Kamara had the first good chance just four minutes in, intercepting a ball in the Los Angeles penalty area and firing a shot after working around four Galaxy defenders. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Kamara’s effort went wide of the far post.

Kamara thought he had the game’s first goal after 17 minutes, but referee Hilario Grajeda rightly called it back for a handball. Jack Jewsbury started the attack with a timely interception at midfield before pushing forward and slotting a well weighted through ball to Davy Arnaud in the Galaxy penalty area. Arnaud’s shot was only partially blocked by Ricketts, but Kamara was there to follow the ball as it bounced off the post. Kamara missed the tap-in on the rebound, putting the ball over the goal line with his hand as he slipped on the wet field.

“It’s a tap in at the end of the day, and we’ll get some more of those,” Wizards manager Peter Vermes said. “That happens sometimes, but the great thing is that we were able to hold onto the game still. I’ve seen crazy things happen in this game, so that play didn’t surprise me.”

The match began to settle down noticeably after Kamara’s called-back goal, as both sides struggled to build any meaningful attacks past midfield. The Wizards began to ramp up the pressure to close the half, with Josh Wolff intercepting an errant pass out of the back. The Wizards striker turned and fired a shot from the top of the box, but his effort rolled straight to Ricketts.

Chris Birchall nearly put the Galaxy ahead on the stroke of halftime, but his volleyed attempt from the top of the box sailed wide of Jimmy Nielsen’s goal.

The second half picked up where the first left off, with both sides using high pressure and compact central play to create scoring opportunities and force mistakes out of the opposition. The strategy worked well for the Wizards as they created five quality scoring chances in a 10-minute span early in the second half.

Jewsbury was an integral part of the first two opportunities. The central midfielder came close to opening the scoring in the 50th minute, but his attempt at a diving header on a Wolff cross was just a split second too late. Jewsbury would get involved again less than a minute later, streaking down the right flank and laying the ball across to Kamara, whose shot was blocked away by a wall of Galaxy bodies.

Ryan Smith continued the Wizards’ pressure in the 53rd minute, delivering a pinpoint cross to Kamara in the box that Ricketts knocked away. Smith was the danger man again two minutes later, as he found space on the left and faked a cross, instead laying a smart ball across the top of the box to Arnaud. Ricketts came up big to parry away Arnaud’s shot, Kamara couldn’t control the rebound and Wolff’s attempt at a follow up was blocked out of play.

Ricketts would come up big for the Galaxy once again in the 57th minute, saving a Jewsbury rocket from the top of the box.

The Wizards’ last quality chance in the 67th minute, when Kamara found space on the right and delivered a crisp pass to Roger Espinoza in the penalty area. Surrounded by four Galaxy defenders, Espinoza waited for an opening before attempting a shot that was blocked out by the Galaxy defense.

Wasting no time, the Galaxy sprinted off on a quick counter, with Landon Donovan bearing down on Nielsen as defender Pablo Escobar laid incapacitated on the side of the field with a mild concussion. The Kansas City defense was able to recover and prevent Donovan from creating anything dangerous, but Escobar was forced to leave the game.

From then, the match settled down in much the same way the first half did. Tackles flew in thick and fast as the Galaxy’s top-rated offense was continually frustrated by the KC defense, while Wizards attackers found space and time hard to come by against a physical Los Angeles back line. In the end, both sides earned shutouts.

“The defenders were outstanding,” Nielsen said of Kansas City’s ability to shut down the Galaxy’s high-powered offense. “It was (a) tough job for them, especially with Ricketts’ long goal kicks. We won the first ball, and we won the second ball nine out of 10 times. As I told them after the game, they did a fantastic job and made my life very easy.”

The Galaxy dropped to 4-0-1 overall this season while Kansas City moved to 2-1-1.

The Wizards will look to build off the shutout at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 1, when they travel to Texas to face the Houston Dynamo.

NOTES

— Chris Klein entered the game in the 75th minute for the Galaxy. The midfielder played the first eight years of his career in Kansas City, winning the 2000 MLS Cup, the 2000 Supporters’ Shield and the 2004 U.S. Open Cup with the Wizards.

— The Wizards outshot the Galaxy 12-11. KC has outshot every opponent so far this season.

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