Kansas City Wizards Soccer
No one seemed to know about it.
Like most places in America, including New York, futobol is not on the radar screen. A couple of people I spoke to prior to the game did not know what the Kansas City Wizards were. The team, named after the "Wizard of Oz" (Get it? Kansas?), is one of the ten charter members of Major League Soccer.
Due to this, I managed to score third-row, center-field seats. It may be the closest ticket I've ever had to a major league sporting event. It gave me ample opportunity to watch players like Wizards rookie Lance Watson (#21) who showed a lot of hustle as a midfielder. His aggression helped him lead the team in penalties with three. Go Lance!
Alex Zotinca, a Romanian native but now a U.S. citizen, served as a defensive player.
Gonzalo Segares, a defender for the Chicago Fire, was once one of three MAC Hermann Trophy finalists, awarded annually to the best collegiate player. So we were watching some good players here.
It was a high scoring and exciting affair. Chicago Fire forward Andy Herron would score at the fourth minute, making it 1-0 Chicago. Herron proved to be my favorite Fire player as he responded to my heckling with a friendly smile.
At the 27th minute, Wizards forward Scott Sealy would answer with a game tying goal.
The fans went wild. One guy even had a green plastic horn. How festive!
Three minutes later, the Fire's forward Nate Jaqua would retake the lead for Chicago and the crowd calmed down for a while.
Later on, the Wizards had a penalty kick shot that they could not convert to make it 2-2.
All would not be lost, however. Sealy would respond for Kansas City with a second goal to tie things up again at minute 39. The first half would end with the game tied and the fans tense.
The second half would prove to be a defensive battle. The Wizards would have another penalty kick opportunity that proved to sail harmlessly over the net for no goal.
Soccer can be a fast a brutal sport, and this player took a head on collision with a Chicago Fire player. He was on the ground for a few minutes until the medical team got him to leave the field. The funny thing about soccer medics that is unlike any other sport is that their main goal seems to be getting the game going. Their primary job is to cart the player off the field so that things can move on. In American football, a player can remain on the ground for five minutes due to a minor injury. Not so in soccer. Get 'em off the grass and start play again.
The 2-2 stalemate would be broken in the 89th minute when Jose Burciaga Jr. (#6) kicked in the winning goal for Kansas City. Burciaga kick deflected into the goal off Chicago goalkeeper Zach Thornton's hands, and was his second straight game-winning shot for the Wizards.
The fans were happy! They had a scare in penalty time when the Fire's Logan Pause almost scored a tying goal. It was waved off and the Wizards were victorious.
It was a fun time and it took place on a day when the U.S. soccer team fared very well against European powerhouse Italy, keeping their World Cup chances alive. In truth, the U.S. team should have won the game if not for very active referees getting involved in the game. The U.S. lost two players to red cards and had a winning goal waved off due to a non-existent offside penalty.
I'm an American, why am I talking about soccer? We don't care. More and more I am. I'm certainly into soccer more than baseball now, and it's getting close to tying my passion for basketball. It will never be pro football to me, but probably nothing ever will be.
It's a fun sport, however, and it's a great cheap ticket. If you have a MLS team in your area, you should check it out. You'll get close to the action and have a fun time.
Sometimes, the rest of the world is right.
My Q&A with Ante Razov, a major league soccer player
Photo Essay: Soccer Fans (Photos of the U.S. vs. Panama CONCACAF Final)