Friday, March 20, 2009

Opening Day: Kansas City Wizards vs Toronto FC



Having watched several practices so far this year, I try to compare this years Wizards to last years team. It is hard to do since this team is so different.

A smaller roster means a smaller number of players, trades, less first year guys, lots of young players from last year are now vets all add up to a much changed team from the beginning of last year. The last couple weeks of practices have been intense and each day seemed to keep building the intensity. Oobservations about the probable starters for this game.

I have never seen Wolff look so good; he has been sharp, feisty and quick. He looks like he is working well with Gomez and Lopez.

Coach has Gomez playing up top and Herculez is liking it.

Claudio has looked like Claudio. Obviously not quite the player he once was but still has moments of brilliance that are highlight quality. His free kicks and corners have looked really good in practice. Working really well with Harrington.

Arnaud and Jewsbury have been exactly what we would expect.

Zusi has looked really solid and looks capable of playing above his experience level. He has to have impressed to make Coach move Gomez up top and to keep Souter, Espinoza and Morsink off the field.

The defense has all looked pretty good, Harington looks extremely confident, Conrad is Captain Kansas City, Hohlbein has been hammering people in practice and Leathers fits in really well.

Kevin (I’m about to own all the MLS Goalie records that matter) Hartman looks as good as last year.

Those are who I expect to start barring a last minute injury. To make it easier to see:

Hartman
Leathers – Hohlbein – Conrad – Harrington
Jewsbury
Zusi – Arnaud - Lopez
Wolff
Gomez

I saw a lot of Gomez up top with Wolff playing a little below him, but expect lots of switching between Gomez Wolff, Arnaud and Lopez. A smart veteran team can make that pay off by confusing the oponent with who to watch. That can also cost you if someone does not cover your position well when you go forward, but I think that will not be a too big of a problem.

The Wizards will be hoping to take advantage of the TFC defense, the most questionable part of the Toronto team.

The rest of the bench is much harder to predict but it could be:
Pardo
Thompson
Besler
Espinoza
Marquess
Hirsig
Morsink

Could swap Watson or Kraus in for any of those except Pardo.

Random shots 03/20/2009

A few days ago at Wizards practice I met Mike Oldham. He is a sports journalist from Edinburgh. He is traveling the US and stopping in all of the MLS teams. Mike has plans to write a book about his travels and maybe even come back to do a documentary. In the meantime you can check out his blog at Inside Soccer USA. He has a blog entry on each location of the trip so far. In the Kansas City entry he talks about visiting Oklahoma Joes BBQ. Mike was of course interested to talk with Kevin Souter (both being from Scotland). Sam, well known to all (at least many Wizards fans) even makes an appearance. When we were talking with him about where he had been, he mentioned that Seattle had looked the best that he had seen so far. Hmmm….

Check out Inside the Wizards Locker Room, Wizards PR guru Dave Borchardt interviews Heculez Gomez. Pretty light fun interview.

Mike of Downthebyline.com has his season preview up. Good reading.

Richard Jata, my favorite Fire player (the only one I could root for since Diego retired) was cut from the Chicago Fire. Hopefully he is picked up somewhere else soon. You can see him in the MLS video: Rookie Life - episode one

MLS-Daily interview with Herculez Gomez, he is popular lately.

The Kanss City Star article about Kevin Hartman closing in on the all time save record. Nice photo by the Star Photographer of Kevin on the goal. Much better than the one they were setting up when I left…

JimmyConrad.com

If you have not checked out JimmyConrad.com, what are you waiting for? Nice site Jimmy.

If you need some better images of your self let me know.

Here is Jimmy and Blanco chatting about etiquette...


Conrad and McBride going for the ball...


Jimmy beat Brian in the air that day...


When the game was over Brian and Jimmy expressed their love for each other. Jimmy and Blanco did not.

The Cauldron

In preparation for this year, I wanted to post a few shots of the Kansas City Wizards Supporters groups from last year...

From the LA game...
I don't see a lot of Beckham jerseys in this crowd...


Getting ready before the game...
At the San Jose game, the Cauldron did a Tifo for Kerry Zavagnin, one of the favorite Wizards of all time.
Kerry came over to show his appreciation. Is that a Group Hug or what?
Cauldron President Robert presented Nick Garcia with this "little" memento of his playing days in KC...

If you were wondering around the parking lot looking for the infamous tailgate, look for this flag, a bunch of great food and you will have found the best tailgate in MLS.


The Cauldron (where the groups typically sit) now consists of many supporters groups. These are some of them:
  • Hillcrest Syndicate - the new version of the group known as the Cauldron
  • Southern Voodoo - Southern Missouri based supporters
  • Sudakas
  • American Outlaws-KC - local branch of the National Team supporters
  • Blue Brigade
  • Des Moines, Ltd. - very new
There are least a couple more that are forming that I do not know the name of yet. I will post links on the side to any of the supporters groups that have sites.
In case you thought the supporters were only forming groups, you would be wrong. They are busily working on new and better Tifo for opening day and the rest of the season.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wizards and "New Media"

Kudos to the Wizards in general and our friends at Hillcrest Road blog specifically. Yes it is the official blog of the Wizards and it their job to do a good blog, but I still have to say well done. Not only to Kyle but to everyone else at the Wizards who are embracing the new media. Be it the new Firefox boom for Wizards fans, sending updates through twitter or using the social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, they are definitely utilizing the full spectrum of New Media at their disposal. Even club President Robb Heineman goes on forums to give fans a heads up on player acquisitions, stadium news or get their opinions. He may regret that some days but he keeps coming back. Of course I also appreciate the fact that they recognize blogs as media and treat us with the same respect and access as other media outlets.

Even with the season tickets this year, they include a CD as the media guide instead of a bunch a bound paper. Yeah, it might be cheaper to do the CD (not sure), but it is also a smart move. Virtually everyone that can afford a ticket to a soccer game has a PC at home or one at school they can use. Most people now are more likely to search for some bit of information on their computer than flip through a thick paper book. Good stuff. Timewise, they cut it a little close mailing them out, but still a good job overall.
My season tickets...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wizards Media day 03-17-2009

Went to practice/Media Day at the Wizards on Tuesday, great weather and very entertaining. You can see my practice report below. This is the first season opening media day that I have attended and it was interesting. I got there early to watch practice so I was there before most (but not all) of the media. These “mainstream media” outlets showed up right at the end of practice and quickly setup to get the background shots.


While waiting for the press conference to start, everyone got their credentials and media guides. The media guides were pretty slim looking at first glance. The reality is that the booklet was slim because all of the real data was on the disc inside the book. It contained several hundred pages in PDF with all the history and stats, photos, quotes and such. Well done guys.


Coach Onalfo and Technical Director Peter Vermes held the press conference to talk about the team. Pretty standard question and answer session (especially if you have listened to the interviews on this blog). Both of them are very passionate about their team and can sometimes get fairly animated…


After the press conference, the team went out to the turf field and members of the press got to go out for interviews, conversations, skill exhibitions and an opportunity to do some of the drills themselves. There was a pretty darn good soccer tennis match with Souter and Coach’s son on one team and two members of the press that actually may have played before.

The team broke into their groups, here is the defenders...


Midfielders...


For some reason the Goalies were in orange. Not everyone in orange was a member of the team...


Scott, the official team photographer was taking PKs.


After the media wore themselves out walking from one end of the field to the other, they retired to the pavilion to help themselves to Zepi's pizza and a keg of Drop Kick Ale. From what I could tell, everyone enjoyed both.

Rest of the photos

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kansas City Wizards Practice 03-17-2009

Everyday I have went to practice it has gotten more intense. Tuesday was no exception. The team was broken into three squads. While two squads scrimmaged, the other one took shots on their goalie and worked some drills. Josh Wolff's intensity and fire today was second to none. His play was outstanding as well. Here he is bringing the ball up field...


Matt Marquess tries to close him down...


Matt gets some help from Kevin Souter but Josh fought his way through to create a scoring chance...


Santiago Hirsig's first practice in Kansas City...
Kurt Morsink coming through midfield and...
unloading at high velocity...

Josh getting another shot from the other side...


Kevin diving for the save...

Every player I talked to today was ready and fired up for this weekend. They are ready to play someone that is not wearing blue.

Rookies: Besler vs Zusi

On the preseason trip to Mexico, the rookies had to perform a skit for the rest of the team. Jimmy Conrad declared Matt Besler the winner and after talking to both Besler and Zusi it was confirmed that Matt took the prize. Well the second round of the rookie competition was held at the Kick off event. Matt and Graham raced Go Karts for pride and bragging rights.

Matt had the early lead (his kart was first in line)


Graham was the faster kart but Matt held him off for a while...


Zusi moves into the lead and Matt waves goodbye (okay, maybe he was waving at his family)...


Total domination for several laps, it looked like Zusi would slow down to let Besler close in. Graham, don't forget the old The Tortoise and the Hare story.


DOH!!! Besler retakes the lead...


But Zusi finishes in the lead with his eyes closed...

Wizards Kick Off event

Monday night, the Wizards Season Kick-off event was held at Paradise Park in Lees Summit. Coach Onalfo introduced each player and talked a little about each one. Somehow Jimmy sets the tone on and off the field...

The players all waited patiently, is it obvious Kronberg is a bit tall?

Michael Harrington sporting the cool shades...


Claudio Lopez was having fun...
Coach Onalfo and his son...
More photos here

Wizards vs Creighton

In today's press conference, Peter mentioned the Wizards reserves would be playing Creighton this Sunday. I did not see that anywhere else but it is on the Creighton schedule.

The schedule says it will be in Kansas City.

Graham Zusi signed

Graham Zusi signed a senior contract this morning. No further details...


Monday, March 16, 2009

Hirsig in blue







At the Wizards Kick Off event tonight, Coach Onalfo introduced Santiago Hirsig to the fans. Here he is in Wizard’s blue…