Kansas City Wizards 2007 Review: Limits of Positive Thinking

Kansas City Wizards

Record (W-L-T): 11-12-7; 45 GF, 45 GA

Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

 

(NOTE: Sorry about the format – e.g. the automatic, uncorrectable double-spacing; I transferred this from Word – which, curiously enough, works on a Mac. CHRIST, I hate when these fucking machines make my formatting decisions for me. Fuck you Bill Gates! You don’t know what I want!)

Overview

New England Revolution fan that I am (even if I run hot-cold), it’s not too surprising that I gathered my impression of the Kansas City Wizards 2007 season through that team – specifically, a late May 4-3 run-‘n’-gun win and a pair of bustling, barging losses in August. The former confirmed reports of a new, attack-happy approach under new coach Kurt Onalfo; the latter, on the other hand, revealed its limitations against a team willing to play the heavies. The dates of both games are crucial as well: the forward-looking style had KC creeping toward “darling” status in the season’s early going – as in, thank God, a team that tries to win – while the August loss came during a time when it seemed like they’d again miss the post-season. They made it in the end, of course: they even won their first-round series against Chivas USA. But it wasn’t as the same team that started 2007.

 

Like a couple other Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs, KC was one of the hot start, cool finish sides – and there’s some truth to this narrative, though it’s more complicated than that. KC definitely started well – going 6-2-2 from the April opening to the first weeks of June – and the rot did sneak in immediately after in the form of a six-game winless streak. What followed, however, constitutes one of the weirder pattern of results I’ve ever seen….or, perhaps, noticed. Apart from a “blip” in July when they picked up two wins, the Wizards kind of staggered through the remainder of 2007 and into the playoffs on the back of just one win per month.

 

But hints of a deeper narrative extended through the Wizards’ season: the slow, inching away from the “gusto-attacko” with which they started the season to the play-‘em-tight caution they carried into their first post-season in three years. Again, this could be deceptive: perhaps Johnson’s steady dip in form proved the decisive factor; alternately, the abrupt end of Carlos Marinelli’s early promise as a playmaker could have played a role. Whatever it was, KC’s once-up-field pressure steadily inched back toward their own defensive third, the result, perhaps, of their struggles with scoring; once that quick-strike threat faded, the Wizards lost the capacity to keep the opposition honest.

 

But those August losses to New England pointed me to a different theory: After the second loss, I wrote a post alleging that KC lacked “steel” or balls. Because a physical team like the Revs could bully them in the midfield, the Wizards’ forward posture left their back four exposed when they lost those battles. In the end, this suggested a kind of mismatch between strategy and personnel, a case of pitting terriers against rottweilers. It’s even possible that Onalfo saw this and adjusted by drawing his players back and using numbers to compensate for his team’s shortcomings in the bulk department; perhaps he did this generally.

 

Like I said, though, this is just a theory; closer observers may come up with something different…and I’m OK with that. But it could be why the KC team that, literally, edged Chivas in the playoffs looked so little like the first-ever exciting Kansas City team that started 2007. Something definitely switched, though, and I’m thinking that was more deliberate than circumstantial. And, in terms of results, it worked – and that’s a good thing. But it also looks more like a short-term fix than the makings of a contender.

 

Notable Streaks

– I flagged the one that most interested me above: KC’s “time-of-the-month” approach to the regular season: they went 1-4-0 in August, 1-2-1 in September, and 1-1-1 in a short October – OK, 2-1-2, if you count the playoffs. However badly I’m stretching this thing, that’s some wicked inconsistency.

– Also flagged above, the strong opening to the season: 6-2-2 is brilliant in MLS.

 

What Went Right

– This one’s personal: their offense-minded approach piqued my interest in the Wizards for the first time in their existence.

– Happy players: the buy-in among the players to what both the coaching staff and FO are doing seemed genuine. The upshot: for a team that, um, doesn’t draw the best and for one that has never played in an, um, ideal facility and won’t be doing so next year, the optimism out KC way seems remarkable.

– Stadium news seems good…well, good enough.

– And, of course, they made the playoffs after missing the past two years. What’s not to like?

 

What Didn’t

– The 45 goals they allowed put this traditionally solid defensive team on the wrong side of the league average. Whatever would the 2001 MLS Cup winning squad say?

– KC matched up poorly against the better Eastern Conference teams – especially as the season wound down. Unless MLS realigns the conferences again, that needs to improve for the sanity of their fans.

– To nitpick a little, the scoring dried up – and I’m looking at you EJ. KC scored 19 goals over the second 15 games of the season, but 26 over the first 15. True, that’s only a seven goal difference, but it might have made the difference between going 6-5-4 over both halves of the season (12-10-8 sounds better than 11-12-7, right?).

Key Men (as in the Ones You Want Back)

Davy Arnaud: Not just for his numbers (which ain’t bad), but for his fight.

Jimmy Conrad/Nick Garcia: Not their best year, but a good tandem.

Sasha Victorine: When he was good, KC was better; solid contributor on a couple levels.

Scott Sealy: That goes double if/when Johnson leaves; Sealy is pretty dang reliable.

Eddie Johnson: Sure, he drives everyone nuts, and sure 6 of his respectable 15 goals came in two games, but 15 goals is nothing to sniff at – especially when it’s 1/3 your total haul.

Jack Jewsbury: As solid as he is versatile.

Anyone Who Ought to Leave

Jose Burciaga Jr.: He illustrates the difference between neat and good: it’s neat to have a left-back who can attack, but it would be better overall to have a good left back.

Carlos Marinelli: His journey should continue.

What They’re Needin’

I’ve long thought the Wizards look as good as anyone on paper, so this ain’t easy. But…

– Kerry Zavagnin is a good player, but he might not be the answer for the kind of team Onalfo fields.

– Something needs to happen in defense – whether that’s sitting Zavagnin deeper to help out, finding new outside backs, or reconfiguring how their lining up.

– Just a little something to boost the offense: KC landed just about squarely in the middle for goals, but a few more would have made a serious difference. A slightly better second banana than Sealy, perhaps? A wilier midfield general? The point is something is needed to take them to the next level, but it’s nothing huge.

– Onalfo, god bless him for trying, will probably benefit from another year’s experience. I thought he came into the season a little naïve. The adjustments worked, but there’s a sense he still needs to pull it all together.

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4 Responses

  1. Well nice blog but one thing is wrong the 01 team probably could care less about the GA by this team this year. Now the 00′ team might be a little upset.

    Something happened with this team after the allstar break which made CO switch up tactics. Bad move on him, This team needs alot of help and it is probably time for some the folks to pack there bags.

  2. A welcome correction to the record. My brain-fart, my bad.

  3. […] New York: Atypically Typical Year Chicago Fire: Lazarus Rises, Plays Stubborn D…and… Kansas City Wizards: Limits of Positive Thinking Columbus Crew: Mid-Summer Mirage Colorado Rapids: The Difference Between “Playing” and […]

  4. Check out this blog by Jimmy Conrad (US national Team player) This dude is funny as hell http://www.athletixnation.com/blogs/JimmyC/214. I think he will be blogging here regularly

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