(August 1, 2007) - Thursday, the Kansas City Wizards (8-5-5, 29 pts) travel to New England to face the Revolution (8-3-6, 30 pts) in a battle for first place in the highly competitive Eastern Conference. It will be the first of two appearances for Kansas City on ESPN 2's MLS Primetime this season. The second comes September 27 when the Los Angeles Galaxy, featuring David Beckham, visit Arrowhead Stadium.
The game pits the two best offenses in Major League Soccer against one another. Kansas City ranks first in goals (32) and New England ranks second (31). Thursday's match marks the second time the Wizards and Revs have faced off this year. May 26, Kansas City won a wild affair 4-3 behind a hat trick performance by Eddie Johnson despite falling behind by two goals in the early going.
Both teams enter on good runs of form. Each has gone 2-0-2 in its last four MLS matches. The Wizards are 2-0-1 since Johnson returned from U.S. National Team duty. The Revolution are undefeated in their last five matches, including a 4-2 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup win over the Rochester Rhinos July 10.
Though the teams have not faced one another in over two months, many players should be familiar with one another. Since the last match-up between the squads, players such as Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad and forward Eddie Johnson and New England defender Michael Parkhurst, Midfielder Steve Ralston and forward Taylor Twellman have spent time together with the U.S. National Team on either the CONCACAF Gold Cup or Copa America roster.
Similarly, New England Head Coach Steve Nicol has recently worked with three members of the Wizards as head coach of the MLS All-Star squad that defeated Celtic FC 2-0 on July 19. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, Conrad and Johnson each appeared in the match. Hartman helped Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis preserve the shutout over Celtic.
Reis and Hartman know one another well, having spent five seasons as teammates while with the Los Angeles Galaxy. After battling one another for the starting position for so long, Hartman and Reis consider one another close friends and respect each other's game immensely. Hartman was quoted before the All-Star game as having cast his All-Star vote for Reis and calling him "one of my favorite goalkeepers to watch".
Kansas City will have two chances to pick up points against the Revolution in the coming weeks. Following Thursday's match, the Wizards will not play again until hosting New England August 19 at Arrowhead Stadium in the Revs' only trip to Kansas City this regular season.
First-year Head Coach Curt Onalfo has worked his squad masterfully this season, at times having as many as four forwards on the field to implement his fast-pace, attack-first offense. Onalfo frequently changes formations to stress offense in the later stages, and his team has responded. Kansas City has scored nine goals after the 75th minute and five game-winners after the 80th minute.