Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wizards open 2009 Season

My middle son Nico enjoying the game, he wants to play centerback for the Wizards some day.
Jack Jewsbury

Claudio Lopez stretching before the game

The Wizards stretching and discussing strategy

Tonight was the first game of the 2009 MLS season, it was great to get back out to the CAB (Community America Ballpark) to root on the Wizards.
The Wizards lost 3-2 to a very strong Toronto FC team. The Wizards only lost a couple home games last year and Toronto hasn't been good on the road in recent years. None of that mattered tonight as Toronto took advantage of some key mistakes by the normally sound Wizards defense to earn the victory.

I saw several bright spots in Kansas City's play-

1. There is a good cohesion with the players as the Wizards have returned most players from last year. They didn't always execute well tonight, but it wasn't for lack of familiarity with each other. Even the new additions of Zusi and Hirsig seemed to fit well enough.

2. Trailing 1-0 after the first half, Coach Onalfo went to an offensive set to start the second half by taking out a defender and adding a midfielder/forward. I tend to be a defensive coach, so I get nervous with such a move relatively early in the game. Sure enough, TFC was able to score early on the undermanned defense to go up 2-0, but then the Wizards really poured the offensive pressure on and it was pretty exciting to watch. Davy Arnaud scored two nearly identical blasts from outside the box, the first of which has to be a goal of the week nominee. I actually applaud the aggressive move of Onalfo. It didn't work this time, but it made for exciting soccer.

3. Santiago Hirsig is the new Argentinian KC midfielder signed a month ago- he only played 20 minutes, but looked very solid and got an assist on Arnaud's second goal. I can see him becoming a major contributor in the midfield this year.

I also noted several concerns that need to be rectified going forward:

1. The three key team leaders are Conrad, Jewsbury, and Arnaud. As these guys go, so goes the team. Arnaud had a stellar second half, but overall none of these guys played to the level they must play for the Wizards to have success in 2009. Conrad and Hohlbein looked sloppy early and almost allowed two goals. Only Chad Barrett's propensity to choke when faced with an open net saved the Wizards from being down 3-0 after the first half. Conrad is one of the three best centerbacks in MLS. He has to do better going forward. Jewsbury never looked good today. His passing was off, he left guys unmarked, one such occasion led to the third TFC goal. Arnaud seemed off rythym in the first half also. He made up for it in the second, but he has to give 90 solid minutes every game. I'm confident these guys will answer the call, but they can't wait to do it.

2. New aquisition Santiago Hirsig needs to become a 90 minute player soon. He's clearly more skilled and experienced than Zusi, Espinosa, Souter, and some of the other KC midfielders Onalfo has to choose from. Hirsig has the potential to be a key contributor to the Wizards this year.

3. Why is Claudio Lopez taking free kicks? He simply doesn't take them well. Corner kicks maybe, but not free kicks. Herculez Gomez on the other hand, causes all sorts of problems for goalies with his knuckleballing free kicks. Maybe Gomez's knee isn't 100%? Heck, let Arnaud or Jewsbury take free kicks, not Lopez.

4. I'm very nervous about the centerback position right now. Conrad is it. Hohlbein just isn't where he needs to be and it showed in the first half. If Jimmy Conrad goes down with an injury the Wizards will be in serious trouble. I just don't see a solid prospect for that pivotal position.

So, another season begins. I have season tickets so I get to basically all the games. Brian and I go to most of them together, but when Brian doesn't come I take one of my sons. Tonight was Nico's turn. It's a real special time to hang with my boys. Nico is the least talkative of my children, but when we're alone together, he chatters non stop. It's great. The atmosphere at the Wizards games is usually very family friendly. Tonight was a bit rough with a huge mob of inebriated Canadians who made the trip to support their team. I so wished the Wizards could have tied or won the game just to hear the Canadians be quiet.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

Don’t know anything about the sport, and frankly don’t care. But I do know, you, Brain and Nathan are great fathers!