(June 29, 2007) - The Kansas City Wizards look to reverse a three-game stretch in which the club has gone 0-2-1 while being outscored by opponents 6-4. Kansas City hosts Toronto Sunday, July 1, at 7 p.m. CT in the third meeting between the clubs this season. Kansas City is 2-0-0 thus far against Toronto, outscoring TFC 4-0. The Wizards begin a stretch Sunday in which the squad will play three games in six days.
Kansas City will play five of its next six matches at home. The Wizards are 3-2-0 this season at Arrowhead Stadium, including a 3-0 victory over Toronto on April 25 in the 2007 home opener. Forward Eddie Johnson, midfielder Kerry Zavagnin and forward Yura Movsisyan scored goals in the match, while Kevin Hartman recorded his first of three shutouts on the season. The game marked TFC Head Coach Mo Johnston's return to the city he helped win a MLS Cup Championship in 2000 as a forward and captain.
Since the second time Kansas City and Toronto met (April 28 in the grand opening of BMO Field), Toronto has undergone a massive roster restructuring. With the recent acquisitions of forward Collin Samuel and defender Todd Dunivant, four players who played against Kansas City the second time have exited Toronto. Defender Kevin Goldthwaite (defender Todd Dunivant), midfielder Paulo Nagamura (draft pick), forward Edson Buddle (defender Tyrone Marshall) and forward Alecko Eskandarian (forward Jeff Cunningham) have been traded by Johnston.
The Wizards will be without the services of striker Eddie Johnson and defender Jimmy Conrad due to the ongoing Copa America competition. Johnson, who has been with the United States National Team for the last three Wizards matches, and Conrad will be gone until at least July 14 when the Wizards face Real Salt Lake. If the U.S. makes it to the medal round of Copa, Johnson and Conrad will miss the match July 14 as well. Johnson has scored two goals since joining the National Team. He now has 11 for his international career in 27 appearances.
In the 8th minute against Argentina Thursday in the first Copa America match for the Red, White and Blue, Johnson took a long pass from central midfielder Benny Feilhaber and used his speed to split the Argentine defense. As he neared goal, Johnson was knocked down from behind by Gabriel Milito and Roberto Ayala. The referee immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot despite protests from Milito, Ayala and goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.
Johnson calmly stepped up and froze Abbondanzieri, slotting the ball inside the right post for his second international goal of June. Johnson scored the second goal in a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on June 9 in Carson, California.
Due to National Team duties and injuries, the Wizards have been forced to shuffle lineups often this year. Kansas City has used 10 different starting lineups in 2007 and will use an 11th Sunday. In each of rookie defender Aaron Hohlbein's previous three starts, Johnson has been in Head Coach Curt Onalfo's lineup. With Hohlbein likely to fill in for Conrad and Johnson unavailable, it is certain the Wizards will again use a different lineup Sunday.
Despite the lineups switches, injuries and international absences, the Wizards have played well through 12 MLS matches. Kansas City has outscored its oppnents 23-18 en route to a 6-4-2 record. Each of the Wizards four losses this season has been by one goal. Kansas City is 4-4 in one-goal games. The Wizards are currently in third place in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Sunday's match marks the return to Kansas City of former Wizards Head Coach Bob Gansler. In 6+ seasons with the club, Gansler collected 84 wins and two major championships. In 2000, Gansler led the Wizards to the MLS Cup Championship and Supporter's Shield title. In 2004, Kansas City captured the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title under Gansler. Gansler is now an assistant to Mo Johnston on Toronto FC's staff.