Wizards shut out first-place Galaxy
The Kansas City Wizards continued their postseason push with a 2-0 victory over the first-place Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center.
Wizards captain Davy Arnaud scored the game-winning goal in the 12th minute and defender Jimmy Conrad secured the victory with his first goal of the season in the 70th minute to earn an important three points on the road.
The win moves Kansas City into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point back of Toronto FC and just three points out of the final playoff position with nine games remaining.
"Coming in, we knew that it was going to be a very difficult match based on the fact that LA is leading the league and they have a great pressing game, especially at home," Wizards coach Peter Vermes said. "They have a lot of weapons. Obviously, Edson (Buddle) has been on fire for most of the season and Landon (Donovan) can hurt you at anytime in a game. The key for us was to not sit back and try to absorb pressure. You can’t do that in this venue for 90 minutes. We tried to have our attacking moments, and I thought the guys did a good job. This was probably our best 90-minute performance of the whole season.”
Arnaud gave Kansas City an early lead, making a timely run into the penalty area and controlling a cross from forward Kei Kamara before burying his shot inside the far post from six yards out in the 12th minute. On a night when he surpassed 17,000 minutes played in MLS, Arnaud netted his 40th career goal to move into sole possession of third place on Kansas City’s all-time goal scoring chart, behind Preki (71) and Josh Wolff (42).
Kamara, who returned to the Cal State-Dominguez Hills campus where he attended college and once interned for the Galaxy, tallied his third assist in the past two games, giving him a new career high.
Arnaud was again leading the attack as Kansas City came close to scoring its second goal in the 36th minute. Arnaud forced a turnover near midfield and dribbled at pace toward the Galaxy goal before playing a pass to forward Birahim Diop at the top of the penalty area. The Senegal native, coming off a two-goal performance the week before, couldn’t convert the one-on-one with Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who came out quickly to make a sliding stop.
Kansas City’s defense held the high-scoring Los Angeles offense without a shot on goal in the first half, limiting the Galaxy’s best scoring opportunities to a shot from Chris Birchall that went high in the 39th minute and a Mike Magee volley in the 43rd minute that was cleared out by Wizards centerback Shavar Thomas.
Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen would be called into action in the second half, though, as Los Angeles’ halftime adjustments increased the pressure in hopes of a comeback. Galaxy captain Landon Donovan created a chance for Birchall in the 49th minute with a quick turn and well-played pass but Birchall’s blast from the right side was met with an outstanding kick save from Nielsen. Less than 10 minutes later, Donovan and Birchall combined again, but Nielsen denied Birchall once more on his shot from the edge of the 18-yard box in the 58th minute.
Nielsen’s three saves on the night earned his eighth shutout of the year and he is now tied for third in MLS with 63 saves. The 2010 All-Star selection has played every minute of every league match for Kansas City this season.
The Wizards confidently held on to their 1-0 lead until the 70th minute when a hard foul on Kansas City's Ryan Smith led to a free kick in front of the Wizards' bench. Arnaud sent the service into a dangerous area inside the box and Conrad acrobatically got his foot on the cross to redirect it off the inside of the post for his first goal of the season.
Conrad, a Southern California native who was playing in front of 185 friends and family, now has 17 goals in his Kansas City career, tying him with Eddie Johnson for ninth on the Wizards' all-time goals chart.
The Wizards are now 7-9-5 this season and 4-1-2 in their last seven MLS matches.
Kansas City’s road trip continues at 2:30 p.m. Saturday with a game at Philadelphia to face the expansion Union at the newly opened PPL Park.