Wizards/Chivas Preview

By: JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Writer
By: JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Writer

The Western Conference's top team will begin trying to meet its lofty postseason expectations Saturday night in the opener of its home-and-home, aggregate score series against the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium.

Chivas went 15-7-8 with a franchise-best 53 points to post the West's best record during the regular season. It came two years after the club won four games in its inaugural season and one year after losing 3-2 in aggregate scoring to Houston in its first playoff series.

Though Chivas has its sights set on winning the MLS Cup, it first must get by Kansas City, which is back in the playoffs for the first time since losing to D.C. United in the 2004 title game.

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"It's going to be a hard road," Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan told the team's official Web site. "We feel that we can go to MLS Cup and no longer making the playoffs is good enough. We want to make sure we do something and that's obviously bringing home a trophy."

To do that, Chivas will have to overcome injuries to some key players.

Ante Razov, second on the team with 11 goals, could miss the postseason after spraining his knee versus FC Dallas on Oct. 11. He had both goals in Chivas' 2-1 home win over Kansas City on Sept. 22 to tie the two-game season series between the clubs.

Forward Maykel Galindo (abdominal strain, ankle), the team leader with 12 goals, and veteran midfielder Jesse Marsch (groin) hope to play Saturday despite their nagging injuries.

Chivas is the league's hottest team heading into the playoffs, going 7-1-5 since a 3-2 loss at Kansas City on July 29.

Guzan recorded his league-leading 13th shutout in a tie with Houston last Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Chivas had the league's best home record at 10-1-4, but opens this series in Kansas City, where it is 0-3 all-time. Chivas was 5-6-4 on the road this season, but is 3-0-2 since the loss at Kansas City.

"There is no team, that when we play our soccer, can beat us," said Chivas' Sacha Kljestan, who had two of his team-leading 13 assists versus Kansas City. "We can really take that next step towards MLS Cup. We really feel like we have a good chance and anything less is going to be a big disappointment for our team this year."

The first challenge is to take care of Kansas City, which finished 11-12-7 and claimed the eighth and final playoff spot.

Though the Wizards are in the Eastern Conference, they are the lowest seed and will play in the West since only three teams from that conference qualified for the playoffs.

The Wizards, who were 7-5-3 at home in 2007, should be confident after beating FC Dallas 2-0 last Saturday to close the regular season with just their second win in nine games (2-5-2).

"Around this time of year everybody has a little bit more intensity, a little bit more focus because you lose, you're out," Kansas City midfielder Michael Harrington told the team's official Web site.

"We're happy with (the shutout), especially going into the playoffs. It gives us some momentum."

The Wizards could receive a boost from having beaten Chivas in the regular season and owning a 3-1-2 advantage in the all-time series. Kansas City is 11-13-3 all-time in the playoffs and won the MLS Cup in 2000.

"We're solid in terms of the guys we have, it's just putting it together as a full team effort," defender Jack Jewsbury said. "We feel good about ourselves, and we're ready for Chivas."

The Wizards hope leading scorer Eddie Johnson can regain his scoring touch from earlier this season. He was fourth in MLS with 15 goals, but has three since July. Johnson did not score against Chivas in the regular season, and has one assist in three playoff games -- all with Dallas in 2002.

The series concludes on Nov. 3 in Southern California.

Updated on Friday, Oct 26, 2007 12:41 pm, EDT


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