Wizards wash out Toronto in wet K.C.

By: By Bob Rusert / MLSnet.com Staff
By: By Bob Rusert / MLSnet.com Staff

KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Wizards once again proved to be adaptable to soggy field conditions as they blitzed past visiting Toronto FC 3-0 on a rainy opening night at Arrowhead Stadium. Midfielder Carlos Marinelli controlled the midfield and Eddie Johnson, Kerry Zavagnin and Yura Movsisyan provided the firepower to go with goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's 63rd career shutout.
Echoing their 4-2 dismantling of D.C. United in the D.C. rain in their season opener, the Wizards took advantage early as forward Davy Arnaud fed overlapping Sasha Victorine on the right side. Victorine crossed high into the area for Johnson, who beat new Toronto FC back Marvell Wynne in the goal area and rose up for a strong header high into the middle of the net.

Two successive corners in the 11th minute increased the pressure on the fledgling Toronto side looking for its first win in team history. With goalkeeper Greg Sutton rising high to clear on the second one, Toronto kept the match close.

And TFC's industry kept the Wizards defense honest. Released into the right side of the Wizards' box in the 19th minute, Toronto's Alecko Eskandarian proved dangerous as he beat three defenders with a step-over and cut back to his lethal left boot. The shot, though, went wide and out of danger.

But repeated gaps in the Toronto midfield presented themselves and Kansas City took advantage with Marinelli spraying the ball to a variety of attackers on forays into the Toronto end. Misfirings and saving tackles by Toronto defenders saved a two-goal Wizards lead.

Marinelli was involved again in the 31st minute as he played wide left for Jose Burciaga Jr., who touched to a sneaky Michael Harrington positioned behind the defense. Harrington curved in a left-footed cross for Victorine, who headed down but over the crossbar.

As personal tensions increased through a 39th-minute confrontation between the previously-carded Eskandarian and Wizards center back Jimmy Conrad, the match remained tight on the scoreboard. Nine Wizards' shots had been taken by the 37th minute, yet Toronto only occasionally threatened a sometimes indecisive Wizards back line with only two shots and two corners by the mid-mark.

Seven minutes into the second stanza, the drama would multiply beginning with two Toronto chances to draw level. SuperDraft top pick Maurice Edu played for Wynne deep and to the right of Hartman's goal. Wynne's cross deflected over the Wizards 'keeper, forcing him to turn and bat the ball to his right. Forward Edson Buddle won the ball and walked in on goal only to put a tame roller right at Hartman.

Perhaps feeling the match hinging on the next few minutes, the Wizards became decisive three minutes later. Johnson beat a defender on the left of Toronto's 18-yard box and played a curling cross for Marinelli, who side-volleyed the ball into the turf only to have it blocked. Center midfielder Kerry Zavagnin latched onto the bouncing ball and half-volleyed a well-placed shot on the turn into the far right corner of the Toronto net, his first goal since the 2003 season.

Shortly thereafter, Johnson connected with a precise Marinelli cross, beat his defender and nearly upped the lead to three. Then Conrad struck a well-won header off the crossbar from a Marinelli corner. The next chance made it a rout.

Substitute Yura Movsisyan claimed a long pass on the left, took on his defender as he went toward the left post, stuttered and banged a low shot off the 'keeper and into the net for his first MLS goal.

Although out of the match, Toronto remained keen on scoring its first-ever goal. And it was Eskandarian again on the attack in the 83rd minute as the former D.C. United striker beat multiple defenders on the right and forced a diving save from Hartman at the near post.

The shutout finally in hand, the Wizards could celebrate a victory in their home opener. They could also cheer Hartman's assuming of the all-time MLS lead in shutouts from Tony Meola, and two wins in their first three league contests.

They will go for their third in the second leg of the home-and-home series Saturday when Toronto FC plays host for the first time at their new BMO Field.

Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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