Wizards dominant in season-opening victory
It was a drizzly night in Kansas City, but for D.C. United it must have felt like a thunderstorm.
The Kansas City Wizards poured in four goals in a 4-0 shutout during the Major League Soccer season-opener Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
“We talked as a team that we spent 62 days getting ready for tonight,” Wizards Manager Peter Vermes said. “We knew we were going to make some mistakes, but we had to come out with all the ideas of how we wanted to play and stay disciplined to that, and the guys did an excellent job of executing.”
A sold-out crowd of 10,385 was on hand to witness the Wizards deliver their most lopsided season-opening victory in franchise history and set the tone to a season where the club will feature a new look. Nine fresh faces were in the lineup Saturday, and they accounted for one goal, two assists and numerous saves in the victory.
The Wizards’ starting lineup made good use of Vermes’ offseason acquisitions, as the manager handed MLS debuts to goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and midfielders Stéphane Auvray and Ryan Smith.
Kansas City’s new additions had an immediate impact on the game’s opening minutes. Nielsen, signed from Danish side Vejle over the off-season, came up big with a save off a Jaime Moreno shot in the match’s 3rd minute.
Englishman Ryan Smith gave United’s defense trouble not long after Nielsen’s save, working a quick give-and-go move with Josh Wolff to get a shot off that goalkeeper Troy Perkins could only parry away.
Smith would give Perkins trouble once again four minutes later, but this time it would pay off for Kansas City. The former Crystal Palace midfielder flew by D.C. defender Clyde Simms, firing a shot from the corner of the box that Perkins failed to control. Kei Kamara was in the right place at the right time to knock home the rebound, and the Kansas City Wizards took a 1-0 advantage.
The Wizards dominated possession after the first goal, controlling the flow of play and disrupting nearly all of United’s forays into Kansas City territory. The match also began to get physical, with United’s Dejan Jakovic and Kurt Morsink earning yellow cards for hard tackles on Arnaud and Smith, respectively.
United was dealt another blow when Clyde Simms was forced out of the game with a hamstring strain. He was replaced by defender Julius James.
The Wizards would strike again a few minutes after James’ introduction, with Smith once again jumpstarting the Wizards attack. He chested down a long ball forward from Auvray before finding an onrushing Davy Arnaud at the top of the box. The Wizards’ captain took a touch and rifled a low rolling shot from 15 yards out that beat Perkins at the far post.
Kansas City continued to dominate possession in the second half, and it nearly capitalized quickly in the half when defender Jimmy Conrad drilled the crossbar with a header off of a corner kick.
Soon thereafter, Smith punched home a goal for a 1-0 lead.
Smith finished his Wizards debut with a goal and an assist, and he caught Vermes’ attention with his performance.
“He’s an extremely dangerous player, especially one versus one,” Vermes said. “It’s hard to control him, you could (see) that by how many fouls were created by him. He was also very locked into the game defensively, so it was a very good debut for him.”
Jack Jewsbury added a penalty kick goal in the 70th minute to close out the scoring.
Conrad said the dominant victory in the season-opener set the right tone for the season as the team claimed a clear home-field advantage.
“It was a point of emphasis for us,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we put our stamp on things here at home. This game is hopefully a good indication of where we’re heading, and if we can win 4-0 every game, we’ll be happy men.”
The Wizards will be off for the next two weeks before returning to MLS action at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 10, at home against the Colorado Rapids.
— Saturday marked the 13th time in Wizards history that the club scored four or more goals in a game. The last time that happened was Sept. 5, 2009, when the Wizards beat the New England Revolution, 4-2.
— The Wizards were extremely accurate with their shooting in the season-opener as they placed 12 of 15 shot attempts on goal. Four of them found the back of the net.
— Kansas City now is 9-4-2 in season openers and 11-2-2 in home openers.
— The Wizards have played D.C. six times in season-openers and are 4-2-0 against United in openers. In home-openers, Kansas City is 3-0-0 against D.C.
— Saturday’s game was the largest margin of victory in a season-opener in club history. The previous high was in the club’s inaugural game on April 13, 1996, when Kansas City beat the Colorado Rapids, 3-0, at Arrowhead Stadium.
— D.C. head coach Curt Onalfo and assistant coach Kris Kelderman made their return to CommunityAmerica Ballpark on Saturday. Onalfo was dismissed as the Wizards’ coach last season, and Kelderman joined him with United in the offseason.