KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Visiting D.C. United grabbed a point and an edge on first place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-1 draw Wednesday night with the Kansas City Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
United took the lead through Rodney Wallace midway through the first half only to be answered by the Wizards’ Josh Wolff early in the second half. For their efforts, Kansas City moved into a tie for third with the Chicago Fire at 11 points, still two behind D.C. heading into the weekend.
United came in winners of two consecutive league matches and three in all competitions. Last Saturday’s 2-1 triumph at home over FC Dallas catapulted the Black-and-Red into a tie for the top spot in the East with Toronto FC. The Wizards, cooled a bit by their 1-0 loss at Toronto on April 26, had won three and tied one in their last five coming into the game, yet with a win would take over first place in the East.
Beginning a taxing stretch of five matches in 19 days, United left some cogs on the bench and at home recovering from injury. The lineup was dotted with five players with less than eight games of MLS experience, including rookie midfielder Brandon Barklage, who was making his first league start. MLS veteran defender Avery John was playing his first match in D.C. colors.
D.C. was hemmed in their end for most of the first 20 minutes as Kansas City sprayed play from left to right and back again, getting off three shots. But only one forced goalkeeper Louis Crayton, back into the lineup after sitting out the Dallas win, into a save.
Biding their time, United came close in the 22nd minute. Working on the right flank, rookie winger Chris Pontius and Santino Quaranta went back and forth, ending with Pontius running onto a through ball and firing past suddenly helpless K.C. goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. But the ball crashed off the far post of the goal.
Five minutes on, United would cash in. Flicked beyond Wizards defender Lance Watson by a flailing Moreno, the ball saw its way down the middle of the K.C. box. Wallace raced through and held off another defender while striking a roller under the recovering Watson and sublimely past Hartman into the heart of the net.
The goal was Wallace’s second of the season and a hopeful harbinger for a D.C. side looking to win their second road match in succession, after breaking an 11-game road losing streak with a 3-2 win April 26 in New York.
United boss Tom Soehn inserted 2007 MLS MVP forward Luciano Emilio into the lineup at the start of the second half for Pontius, signaling the focus on keeping his players fresh yet his lineup dangerous. But it would be Kansas City that would gain the momentum seven minutes later.
Watson atoned for his earlier defeat by whipping in a curving, low cross for Wolff running to the near post. The 10-year MLS forward timed his slide perfectly knocking home the leveler in the 52nd minute. A jubilant Wolff crashed the Wizards’ supporters' section behind the goal to celebrate his third score of the season and the life he had given the home side.
No telling what would have happened if United's Clyde Simms hadn’t sufficiently hassled Wolff attempting to nod home a perfectly placed far-post cross from Claudio Lopez 10 minutes later. Simms’ positioning and physicality forced Wolff wide on the attempt and kept the match in a stalemate.
Meanwhile, Soehn showcased D.C.’s depth in inserting 2006 MLS MVP midfielder Christian Gomez the minute before. Although Kansas City coach Curt Onalfo countered with offense in the form of Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington for striker Herculez Gomez and center back Aaron Hohlbein respectively, neither side dominated the last half hour and would have to settle for a point.
Each will go for three points again on Saturday as United play host to second-place Toronto while Kansas City travels to take on defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew.
D.C. United (3-1-4) vs. Kansas City Wizards (3-3-2)
May 06, 2009 -- CommunityAmerica Ballpark
DC -- Rodney Wallace 2 (Jaime Moreno 2, Santino Quaranta 3) 27
KC -- Josh Wolff 3 (Jack Jewsbury 2, Lance Watson 1) 52
D.C. United -- Louis Crayton, Bryan Namoff, Greg Janicki, Avery John, Rodney Wallace, Brandon Barklage (Christian Gomez 61), Andrew Jacobson, Clyde Simms, Santino Quaranta, Jaime Moreno (Thabiso Khumalo 87), Chris Pontius (Luciano Emilio 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Dejan Jakovic, Milos Kocic, Devon McTavish, Ange N'Silu
Kansas City Wizards -- Kevin Hartman, Lance Watson, Jimmy Conrad, Aaron Hohlbein (Michael Harrington 83), Matt Besler, Josh Wolff, Santiago Hirsig, Jack Jewsbury, Davy Arnaud, Herculez Gomez (Roger Espinoza 60), Claudio Lopez.
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Kraus, Rauwshan McKenzie, Kurt Morsink, Boris Pardo, Abe Thompson
KC -- Jack Jewsbury (caution; Reckless Tackle) 23
DC -- Brandon Barklage (caution; Tactical Foul) 29
KC -- Lance Watson (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
DC -- Avery John (caution; Reckless Foul) 71
KC -- Roger Espinoza (caution; Reckless Tackle) 82
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: Anthony Vasoli; Chris Strickland
4th official: Mark Kadlecik
Time of game: 1:50
Weather: Sunny -and- 74 degrees
Curtis Kitchen is a contributor to MLSnet.com.