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Wizards @ Columbus Crew - Live Thread

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As will be a regular practice for as long as The Daily Wiz is on the WordPress network, I'll be doing a running live thread for tonight's game (6:30 p.m. CDT) against Columbus. I'll be updating with thoughts leading up to the game and as big moments in the game occur. If you haven't already, check out my Three Questions post regarding tonight's game. Also, it's time for Davy Arnaud to step it up. (Shameless self-promotion, yes.)

Feel free to jump in in the comments section when I say something completely insane. Hell, you could still probably be the first comment on The Daily Wiz.

Hopeful Starting XI

---Smith-----Kamara-----Bunbury---

---------Zusi---------Arnaud--------
--------------Auvray----------------

Espinoza-Conrad-Besler-Harrington

Nielsen
=============

Forwards: Smith and Kamara are really no-brainers. The right side, though, would be really wide open - if I were the coach, that is. As far as coach Peter Vermes is concerned, Josh Wolff is a world beater and the be-all end-all right side forward answer. Little does Vermes know, Wolff has less pace remaining than Akebono.
Expected starting unit: Smith, Kamara, Wolff

Midfield: Arnaud will start; we know that. We can likely assume Auvray will start and play 60 minutes, or so due to still regaining full fitness after arthroscopic knee surgery. The third midfield spot needs to be someone attack minded and creative; someone that isn't afraid to go forward and let one rip from outside the box, or play a through ball 20 yards ahead. Jack Jewsbury doesn't offer that anymore and the midfield is stagnant when he and Arnaud are paired together. That said...
Expected starting unit: Jewsbury, Auvray, Arnaud

Defenders: While Jimmy Conrad was the latest culprit in the "who's going to allow every goal this game?" contest against Chivas USA on Saturday, he's the best we have in the center of defense, and he'll start as long as he's here. Espinoza and Harrington are locks on the outside, one would hope. Personally, I'm a big fan of Matt Besler. He and Conrad were a stonewall the first two games of the season until Vermes inexplicably started Pablo Escobar at Seattle, and the wheels fell off. Besler is far more a prospect for the future than Shavar Thomas. I wish we could let him play.
Expected starting unit: Espinoza, Conrad, Thomas, Harrington

UPDATE - 5:40 - Starting XI's are in

From the Wizards official Twitter page:

Lineups are in for tonight. #KCWizards: Nielsen; Harrington, Conrad, Thomas, Espinoza; Arnaud, Auvray, Rocastle; Kamara, Bunbury, Smith #MLS

#KCWizards subs Kronberg, Aiyegbusi, Diop, Jewsbury, Leathers, Wolff, Zusi #MLS

#thecrew starters: Hesmer; Hejduk, Marshall, Iro, Padula; Gaven, Carroll, Moffat, Rogers; Schelotto, Garey #MLS

#thecrew bench: Gruenebaum, O'Rourke, Ekpo, Renteria, Lenhart, Brunner, Francis #MLS

Reactions: If I have to give up my pleas for Zusi in the midfield to get Wolff out of the starting XI for a game, that's a trade I'm willing to make. Looks like Vermes is going with Kamara on the right with Bunbury in the center of attack. I will say I'd rather have Kei in the middle, but he'll probably end up there at some point before game's end.

Overall, I had hoped for Besler, Zusi and Bunbury. I got only Bunbury granted. Not surprisingly, I predicted neither Besler or Zusi would start. The thing that I don't get is Craig Rocastle starting, again. He offers little to nothing offensively and is a real hot-head. Don't we already have a potentially volatile midfielder in the lineup? I'd go back to Jewsbury before I started Rocastle.

UPDATE - 6:22 - Predition Time

Call me stupid, (and I know I am) but I'm really truly hopeful of picking up a point tonight. Maybe I"m just guilty of drinking the blue Kool-Aid too much, but I really did feel good about the way the team played for most of 85 minutes on Saturday. Conrad soiled himself a couple times, but other than that, Chivas really had few opportunities on goal. Now, tonight with Lenhart, O'Rourke and Ekpo starting the game on the bench, I feel we can maybe get a goal and hold Columbus to only one, too.

Crew 1-1 Wizards

UPDATE - 6:36 - And, we're off. LET'S GO WIZARDS!!

2' - Great 40 yard ball played by Espinoza to Bunbury, bust he couldn't do anything with it. Espinoza turns right around and gives away a free kick just outside the 18 yard box. Thank goodness Lenhart isn't on the field.

6' - This game has no rhythym right now. To their credit, each side playing tough, high pressure defense and not allowing the short passing game to be worked.

7' - Bunbury accidentally Shawne Merriman'd Adam Moffat and got away without a card - surprisingly, seeing as how MLS refs are officiating this game.

9' - Columbus' 3rd corner of the game already? Considering that's how they scored their one goal against us back in May, let's stop giving them so many. This reminds me of the FC Dallas game - each team living on the Wizards' half of the field.

10' - Davy gets down and dirty to block a powerful shot on the 18 yard box. Well done, El Capitan.

12' - Wizards look unwilling to procede past the midfield line. As I type that, Rocastle breaks towards the 18 yard box, but a slide tackle from behind takes the ball off his feet. What's he doing up there?

14' - BUNBURY SCORES!!!!!!!!!! TEAL MOTHA-EFFING BUNBURY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A great ball from Ryan Smith in the center to Teal on the right flank, one touch forward and blasts a low, hard shot at Hesmer, right between his legs. Great first MLS goal, Teal.

16' - Still reeling from seeing a KC shot hit the inside of the net. What a time and place (his homecoming, playing at Akron in college) for his first goal. Am I selfish for wanting another?

19' - Got away with two in a row right there. Back to back balls likely should have ended up goals for Columbus. This backline will stop my heart 20 years before it's my time.

21' - Columbus fans chanting "Columbus Reject" at Kamara after he blew up a Columbus defender. Yeah, about that. Scoreboard, bitches. (Haven't been able to say that for a while; just had to. WE'RE WINNING!!!)

24' - Ever since the goal, we really have a stranglehold on possession. This is an alternate universe we're all living in tonight.

25' - We lead a game after 25 minutes. That's happened all of once all season long - the opener against DC United. This is kind of fun, isn't it?

26' - Robbie Rogers is a great MLS midfielder, but he can't run rings around Michael Harrington like he can most MLS right backs. It's frustrating him right now, and you can tell. Mikey is my favorite Wizard, by the way.

27' - Auvray is absolutely owning the ball in the middle of the stadium. Taking it away from everybody. Padula nearly puts home a perfect strike for Columbus - in his own goal, that is. Shavar nearly got a lucky goal. What is this good fortune coming our way?

29' - Thomas showed off whatever wheels he has and outran Schelotto to a slow roller that would have left Guillermo 1-v-1 with Nielsen. Living dangerously.

30' - Like I already said, keeping Rogers out of the heart of attack will be huge. So far, we're doing a fair job of it. Having Harrington out there helps my nerves. I'm starting to feel a slight bit of confidence now.

34' - Espinoza really wants a yellow card tonight. That was his 3rd of 4th questionable challenge - most of which from behind.

37' - For all the ire I sent his way pregame, Rocastle has been great so far tonight. He's the most energetic midfielder out there and the one - coming from a holding mid position - pressuring the keeper on slow rollers. He's also brushed a couple smaller players off to take possession in the midfield, too. A big, strong banger in the middle would be great to have if he can do this consistently.

39' - If by some dumb leap of faith we score another goal here - especially before the half - I may be out of comission for a while. You can find me leading the parade at The Plaza.

40' - Bad call to receive a yellow card against a Wizards opponent? What is this?

42' - Espinoza hurt? The way he's playing tonight, Harrington on the left would be fine with me if it didn't mean we had to spot someone for Harrington on the right. Let him play both.

44' - Smith should have ripped that one towards goal, but nonetheless, good to see multiple players in support in the box. That's something we haven't seen since the DC home game. We're dangerous when we do that, guys. Keep doing it.

45' +2 - I love Bunbury's agressiveness trying to go 1 on 4, but he had no chance there. Lay it off to Kei and make a diagonal run to re-receive it on the right.

Halftime - We're winning. Seriously, we scored a goal and the other team didn't. It's really as simple as that.

I thought we would come out and play well tonight, but not even I was dumb enough to predict this. A goal in the first 10 minutes? I'll take it, though.

Overall, we are playing really well in the final third, pretty well in the middle third, but pretty sloppy in the back. We've been rather fortunate to watch a number of crosses roll lazily through the box with no one able to find the end of it for a strike.

You can come thank us in 45 minutes, New York. You now have a chance to hang around Columbus in the standings, rather than dropping 5 points clear after tonight.

Like I've already said, Rocastle is playing great. I hope he can go a full 90. I'm sure Stephane won't be able to, so when we sub him off, probably around the 60th or 65th, let's slide Rocastle into the middle, bring Zusi on in front of Rocastle, next to Davy and push for a second. Really, if we can manage to hold the lead until substitution time hits, (55+ minutes) we could really do this.

For the record, Teal's goal in the 7th minute ended a 332 minute scoreless streak for the Wizards. We don't ever deserve to suffer through that again. Twice in the same season, let alone? Oh wait, we already did that. Never again, boys, please.

UPDATE - 7:38 - And, we're back on. LET'S GO WIZARDS!!

46' - Kamara's chest down and turn was the most creative piece of ball work from a Wizard all season: non-Ryan Smith category.

47' - We have to keep pushing forward. If we fall back now, we can't hold off constant attacks for 44 more minutes.

48' - Attention, MLS teams: if you're going to try and score via header with Shavar Thomas marking someone in the middle on the cross, it ain't happening. You can't push him out of the way and you will get flattened.

50' - Davy, you really blew that one. Kei with a super touch to bring the ball down and a decent ball to Davy's feet, but he blasted it wide. Actually, on second viewing, Sacha Victorine was right - the ball could have been a lot better. Still, nice bit of skill and a well-worked threat on goal.

52' - I love when Harrington pushes forward so far in support of the attack, but hate it when we lose the ball and Conrad is now responsible for the entire left side of defense. He gets burned a lot that way.

54' - Hey, the Columbus supporters group is stealing the American Outlaws KC songs and changing the words to Columbus instead of "the US." Oh, wait...

56' - Columbus looks legitimately frustrated and out of sorts. KC Wiz, what have you done?

58' - It took that long for Rogers to legitimately beat Harrington to the point where he could play a really dangerous ball. That's a win, in and of itself.

60' - (knock on wood) We have really defended set pieces well tonight. Cross from the run of play, not so much. But, set pieces - again, how Columbus beat us last time - Kamara and Thomas have been all over tonight. Just keep hitting those free kicks and corner kicks at those two big boys.

61' - Alright, we're into "substitution time" now. We've managed to hold the lead. Columbus are really going to have to start pressing forward and devoting more bodies to attack. Now's when we bring on Zusi and hit 'em with the counter. Zusi will create a dangerous situation for the Crew backline within two minutes of entering the game. Book it.

64' - Zusi for Rocastle, rather than Auvray. Rocastle looks winded and started to play chippy. I'm good with that. I can't rip Vermes if this turns out badly, because I support this move. (As if that matters.)

65' - Rogers out? Heaven's yes!! Mikey can negate his speed. Renteria's strength? We'll see. Lenhart on. Can't let anymore weak crosses find the ground for 25 minutes. Tighten up, Jimmy.

68' - Dangers 20 seconds that I don't even want to talk about. Harrington saved us once, Schelotto just almost made it all happen himself. That would have sucked. If we're going to concede, let's not do it until we are up 2-0, or in the 85th minute, please.

70' - Another Conrad mishit clearance almost bites the Wizards again, but Jimmy Nielsen wins (another) NAPA Save of the Week with a terrific kick save. What. A. Save.

72' - Kamara down for a solid minute, MAGIC SPRAY comes out, Kei jumps right up. What is that stuff?!

75' - Ekpo comes on. Striker for defender, with Hejduk coming off. Color officially fearful for our 3 points.

77' - For all the chances Columbus are putting together - thanks to making three obviously attack minded subs - we are creating just as many *gasp* moments as they are. We are play our asses off, as well. And, to think: we're doing this all on the road.

78' - Renteria strikes a laser into the side netting. The Crew supporters rejoice. Haha, suckers.

80' - I let out a yelp. How Gaven didn't get a legitimate shot on goal there is beyond me. I'm not used to this good fortune going our way.

81' - Columbus make a KC-like mistake with one man back and Davy can't make them pay. Sequence MAKES MY HEAD EXPLODE. Teal all alone with the keeper, loses his touch, cross in to Zusi headed, but saved by Hesmer. This team is attacking. So fun to watch.

83' - Korede Ayegbusi coming on for Auvray. If this is a defender for midfielder switch, I'm extremely happy. Keep Ayegbusi back with full stamina, let Harrington play a floater between backline and defense. Looks like Ayegbusi is playing strictly midfield, though. If that bites us, I get to rip Vermes.

85' - Five men back solidly in defense on that Crew attack. I'd take a clincher here, but if we concede at the expense of trying to get it, I lose my mind. Also, Renteria should try out for the Browns. That was a great American football tackle on Conrad. Right in front of the ref, no less. How does that not get called?

86' - Ayegbusi got heart.

87' - Espinoza down in the box. We are in the position to stall and time waste. This is so awesome. Hate the gimmick tactics, but the fact that we can do it, I'm all giddy.

90' - These next couple minutes are going to test my heart.

90' +1 - The Crew are really crapping themselves once they get into the box. Isn't that the job of the Wizards?

90' +3 - Nielsen saves us again. What's new? Adding another minute of added time? What is this, Fergie Time?

90' +5 - Are we really going to let him get treatment on the clock the entire time until he stops gushing blood?? Take him off and continue play.

90' +6!!! - MLS wants Columbus to win here. I hate conspiracy theorists, but this is ridiculous. The first extra minute was bull; three more after that is outrageous.

Full Time - Holy. Cow. We just won a game. On the road. Winning means we scored a goal, too, by the way, in case you forgot. That was really fun. Is The Daily Wiz the Wizards good luck charm?