CARSON, Calif. – Sometime in July, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Kansas City Wizards quietly switched roles.
Having collected points early on like a vacuum cleaner collects trash, the Galaxy hit a lull, and instead of struggling through game after game, the Wizards started amassing points and climbing the table.
While the roles haven’t fully reversed—the Galaxy still lead the league in points while the Wizards have ground to cover yet—the teams are still heading in opposite directions. The two teams will meet at The Home Depot Center on Saturday, with the Galaxy trying to turn things around at the Wizards’ expense.
Kansas City’s upturn in fortune, though, has not gone unnoticed, particularly the Wizards’ newfound poise.
“A very confident team,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein said when asked what he expects from Kansas City on Saturday. “A team that went through a lull the first part of the season but a team that is maybe one of the more confident ones in the league.”
With their recent results, the Wizards have reason to be confident, particularly in light of the first half of the season. After a 2-0 home loss to Chivas USA on July 10, the Wizards were languishing with a 3-8-3 record. But four days later, the Wizards stunned Columbus, beating the Crew in Ohio by 1-0. That victory started off a six-game stretch of games where the Wizards have shown much improvement.
Entering Saturday’s match, the Wizards are 3-1-2 in their last six games, outscoring their opponents 9-4. They have climbed to within three points of fourth-placed Chicago in the Eastern Conference table and are now just five points out of a playoff spot.
Last week’s victory—a 4-1 thumping of New England—may have been a shot across the bow for the rest of the league, in particular their next opponent, the Galaxy.
“They definitely have more of a potent attack and seem to be finding their rhythm,” Klein said. “That result and those four goals seems to be very indicative of the way they’ve been playing.”
Kansas City will attack, or attempt to attack. That’s given. And the Galaxy are bracing to defend and employ their usual, and usually effective, counterattacking style.
“They’re a pretty direct team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “They come at you with a bunch of athletic guys up top, some speed and power. That’s kind of the way they play. They’re fairly direct and I would expect to see more of the same.”
Kansas City have already had success against the Galaxy. In late April, the Wizards and Galaxy tied 0-0 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. However, that field is notorious for being a small pitch with tight spaces, the opposite of what Saturday’s scene will look like.
“Kansas City is an awkward place to play,” Arena said. “That’s past us now. The game Saturday is out there for us to take. You can talk about all the other things, fields and that, but it’s a game I’d like to believe our team would be ready to play and position themselves to get three points.”