Sometimes, especially when you've just come off an emotional roller coaster of a game, it's better to take a day to come down, relax, step back and take an objective look at things. You can't find a better example of such a time than Saturday night's game between the Kansas City Wizards and the Colorado Rapids.
Our beloved Wizards went from looking like a team that could somehow take 4 points from just this one game, to squandering chances to lock up the maximum 3 points, to knowing that the missed chances would come back and haunt them in the end, to looking like a draw was a fair result, to being luckier than a Powerball winner to come away with a point.
From Davy Arnaud scoring his second goal of the season in the 20th minute, to Kei Kamara's spectacularly saved shot which was well placed in the bottom corner of the goal, to Arnaud's rebound shot immediately after somehow being saved as well, to Teal Bunbury beating the keeper and somehow managing to hit both posts on one shot, the Wizards were a 3 point side in the first half and probably should have netted a second or third goal.
Surprisingly, a key cog in the Wizards' sudden rush of attacking prowess has been the play of midfielder Craig Rocastle. Not only did Rocastle pick up the assist on Arnaud's goal, which was a beautifully weighted ball ahead of everyone for Davy to run onto, but he did as good of a job winning the ball in the midfield area as fellow midfielder Stephane Auvray, who is known almost exclusively for doing so. Early on in the season, many Wizards fans - myself included, no doubt - were harsh critics on Rocastle, but not without reason. He managed to pick up four yellow cards and a red through the first six games of his MLS career this season. Over the last handful of games, though, coach Peter Vermes seems to have potentially tamed the beast and brought out a run of play that very few ever expected of Rocastle. If Rocastle continues his recent form - even if only for 60-70 minutes a game, which was the case in each game this week - his size and aggressive ball winning abilities could be a real asset for this team. And, it goes without saying that Vermes would be due quite the pat on the back for this diamond in the rough.
It's really hard to pinpoint and put a finger on what happened this past week that changed so drastically from losing 2-0 to Chivas USA at home, to beating Eastern Conference leader Columbus Crew and drawing a playoff side Colorado, each on the road. Oh wait, no it's not. It has everything to do with Josh Wolff sitting on the bench. I'll give Vermes that up until this point, Teal Bunbury wasn't quite "getting it" yet and he wasn't ready to play a full 90 minutes regularly. Wolff was his only viable option and he had to go with him. I get that. But, if he goes back to Wolff in the starting XI, may the great locust plague be cast upon before leaving the stadium.
Seriously, though, the attack has life when Bunbury plays. He can run. I hear that helps.
All was not rosy in the Rockies Saturday night, though. Once the second half came, momentum slowly turned from greatly favoring KC the entire first half, to a level game the next 20 or so minutes, to Conor Casey levelling the game for Colorado, to a full head of steam onslaught with the KC backline being peppered with through balls and shots on goal.
Really, the Wizards just ran out of gas. The combination of running with the exact same starting XI as just four days previous and the altitude of playing in Denver did in much of the Wizards' squad by about the 70th minute. Casey's well-worked equalizer* came in the 74th.
* The good news is that Rapids forward Conor Casey, a real big lug, doesn’t often do much to create his own scoring chances. He’s the epitome of a target forward. Without proper service, he lacks much speed and ability to play himself into dangerous positions.
I said that Saturday afternoon about Casey. This is me eating a hot, steaming plate of crow. Well taken goal, you bald heartbreaker, you. As a sidenote, Shavar Thomas' fitness (and it had nothing to do with the altitude) is what allowed Casey into position to make such a play.
Thomas' lack of fitness nearly bit KC doubly hard in the 89th minute when, with Thomas at barely a jog's pace, Claudio Lopez slid a perfect diagonal through ball to Casey, who took a touch to the left, left Wizards keeper Jimmy Nielsen in his dust and had a wide open goal to shoot on from the left side of the 6 yard box. What happened next can only be understood by Los Angeles Galaxy fans, who felt the sheer joy of such a horrendous gaffe in front of goal when Kamara made his now world-famous slip in front of a wide open goal with the ball on the line, landed on the ball with his arm and scooted it into the goal. Dont worry, Colorado fan, we know your pain on a whole nother level.
In the end, a point a piece was maybe a fair result; Kansas City owned 45 minutes, should have scored an additional goal or two; Colorado swung the momentum, equalized and should have had a second.
Think back to the previous 14 games of the season before this roadtrip. At any time during the last three months did would you have fancied this team - one without a win on the road all season - to win one of these two games against very good sides? You would have likely been hoping for a non-blowout loss in one and a draw in the other. Instead, a win and a draw. No one saw that coming.
Smile, things are finally looking up.