Sitting in front of his locker surrounded by the media following Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Kei Kamara tried to explain what may go down as the miss of the season.
He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t blame the CommunityAmerica Ballpark turf, soaked from a day of intermittent rain showers. He didn’t dispute the handball called against him. He simply missed.
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With 17 minutes gone and the ball spinning tantalizingly on an unoccupied goal line, Kamara found himself unmarked with only a touch separating the Wizards from a crucial early goal. What came next is hard to fathom, even for Kamara.
Pouncing on the opportunity, Kamara lost his footing, missed the ball completely and inadvertently put the ball in the back of the net with his arm.
“I can’t really explain it well,” he said.
Neither could manager Peter Vermes or his teammates. But after outplaying the unblemished Galaxy and staying undefeated at CAB, Vermes wasn’t in a mood to dwell on Kamara’s whiff.
This was a game where the Wizards took control from the start, creating the majority of the match’s scoring opportunities and suffocating the red-hot Edson Buddle, limiting him to only one shot.
“We drove the game,” Vermes said. “I think we had the better of the play and the better of the chances. But this is what you play 30 games for.”
Although Kansas City will be disappointed not to walk away with its third home victory of 2010, they can take solace in the fact that the defense posted its third shutout at CAB and was a handful of Donovan Ricketts saves away from taking the points despite Kamara’s mishap in front of net.
The Wizards held the Galaxy scoreless without Jimmy Conrad, who spent the game watching from a luxury box after being held out because of a muscle strain suffered last weekend in Seattle. Pablo Escobar and Matt Besler started in central defense for Vermes, and kept Buddle, Landon Donovan and rest of Los Angeles’ attack at bay all night with the help of the team’s trademark high pressure.
“We weren’t totally focused on him,” Belser said of the league’s leading scorer. “He’s not their only player, but we were pretty pumped up to play him, because anytime you can face one of the best forwards, its fun to shut them down and kind of frustrate them.”
Buddle certainly seemed to be frustrated, drawing a yellow card in second-half stoppage time for an unnecessary foul on substitute Aaron Hohlbein in a game in which the Galaxy racked up 17 fouls to the Wizards' four.
And even though Kansas City couldn’t muster a goal of their own, it wasn’t as if the home team didn’t have plenty of opportunities. Jack Jewsbury and Davy Arnaud forced Ricketts into saves from long range, and Kamara and Smith were active all night.
But it just wasn’t the Wizards' night offensively. Defense ruled the day, and Kansas City’s unit emerged with flying colors.
“We’ve worked very meticulously on how our line moves, how those guys are connected and how they have to be like one organism, if you will,” Vermes said.
The only truly scary moment for the Wizards back line came in the 67th minute after a Galaxy counterattack put Donovan one-on-one with Jimmy Nielsen. Donovan appeared to try to nutmeg the onrushing Nielsen, but Kansas City’s goalkeeper was able to protect his five-hole.
“I used to be an ice hockey goalkeeper,” Nielsen said. “I was a little bit lucky there to save it between my legs.”
The Galaxy were certainly lucky to leave Kansas City with a point as well. With one swing of the leg separating the Wizards from three points and an early marquee victory, Kamara missed the ball—and in the process, the points.
“I really feel bad for the team,” Kamara said. “A goal like that could have put us up early, and it could have given us three points.”