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Restart Opportunity

by Steve De Rose
September 24, 2004 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Sporting Kansas City

The Kansas City Wizards, via an electrifying freekick goal by Igor Simutenkov, have won the 2004 Lamar Hunt U. S. Open Cup Final. Simutenkov's goal, after a foul committed by the Fire's Evan Whitfield versus U.S. National Team player (and ex-Fire player) Josh Wolff, came in the fifth minute of the first “golden goal” overtime period. Simutenkov had also scored the only goal in the Wizards' Semi-Final victory versus the San Jose Earthquakes. The Fire failed at the final hurdle to be the first team to defend its Open Cup Championship since the 1982 and 1983 New York Pancyprian-Freedoms.

In the 15th minute, in what was ultimately the best chance of the match for the Fire, Andy Williams got open on the right wing and ran toward the goal. Wizards' GK Tony Meola moved to the near post to close off the angle. Williams cut a cross back against the grain to an open spot in front of the semi-vacated net. But no one for the Fire could get to it before it was put over the end line by a Wizards' player.

Besides a stealthy cross shot by the Wizards' Josh Wolff in the 26th minute; the next good chance they had occurred at the point of a forward crossing ball into the Fire penalty box. Davy Arnaud got to the 50 / 50 ball, but in order to do so, he had to gruesomely contort his frame, and his effort to net went very highly over the crossbar. Wolff and Arnaud tried again one minute later. This time, absorbing Fire defenders caused Arnaud to push the ball too far away from himself as he moved from left to right just inside the penalty box.

A Wizards' defensive giveaway in the 36th minute gave Damani Ralph an avenue towards goal, but he couldn't pace the ball to an area from which he wanted to shoot, and the Wizards recovered to tackle it away for a throw-in.

What some have expressed was a better opportunity for the Fire came in the 43rd minute. Logan Pause and Ralph marauded towards the Wizards' goal, and from ten yards out on the right wing, Pause pushed the ball by a sliding defender. It missed the left post by nine inches. I felt that if the shot had been on target, it would have been blocked by the defender, who was committing to the end line. Further, television replays seemed to show that had Ralph managed to get to the ball before it went by the left post, he would have been whistled for offside. The first half ended with the Wizards getting a restart from the center of the pitch, 29 yards from goal. The shot by Wolff was repelled by the Fire's defensive wall.

The Wizards would bring on Simutenkov to begin the second half. In the 47th minute, the Fire's Brown would mis-hit a clearance and the ball came into the orbit of Wolff who was unprepared for this charity. His shot soared over the goal.

The Wizards had a good chance in the 54th minute when a forward cross into the box saw Jack Jewsbury getting position on his marker. His deflecting header, though, was right at the chest of Fire GK Henry Ring.

The best save of the game came one minute after the Wizards brought on Taylor Graham for Jewsbury. The Wizards' Kerry Zavagnin salvoed a shot from the top of the penalty box on the right center. It dipped low to Ring's right, but he managed to get his right hand on the ball just before it went by him. Kansas City was rejuvenated by the 68th minute substitution, and they began getting more of the play.

Though Chicago was being compacted, they managed to spring a counterattack. Williams was served. He got a step on his mark, and dribbled to the goal line. As he was about to cross the ball back into the center of the penalty box, it was tackled away for another corner kick in the 73rd minute.

By the 82nd minute, while their defense was appearing creaky at times, the Fire had withstood the Wizards' main assault on their goal. They still had not made a substitution.

So of course, the Wizards would nearly score a (most-probable) cup-winning goal minutes later in the 85th minute. After an infrequent Fire jaunt, which involved their midfield, the Wizards would turn it around and have a four versus three. The “killer” pass was played into space for ex-Fire player Diego Gutierrez. With only Ring left to beat, and as Ring crouched low to try and cover that portion of the goal, Gutierrez hit his shot off the right post, five feet up, and out for the goal kick.

Chicago would finally make their first substitution in the 88th minute, bringing on Chris Armas for Pause. In the 89th minute, they would take their only shot Meola had to save. Williams tried an optimistic shot from twenty yards on the left center that skipped right into Meola's chest. Full time came nil-nil.

If you are relatively unfamiliar with outdoor soccer, you might not know that a few months back F.I.F.A., the sanctioning body for the entire sport; modified the tie-breaking procedure for games level after ninety minutes. Perhaps you vaguely recall that in the Olympic women's soccer final between the U.S.A. and Brazil, when the U.S.A. scored in overtime, the game continued until 120 minutes had been played. For all competitions which began after June 1, 2004, “golden goal” has been supplanted by “silver goal”. “Silver goal” means that two 15-minute overtime periods will be played in their totality, regardless of the number of goals scored. This year's U.S. Open Cup, which officially began prior to June 1, will probably be the very last competition to be decided by “golden goal”.

After the Fire's Armas could not orient his body into a shooting stance in the 92nd minute, a ball out of midfield for the Wizards' Wolff saw him crash into the Chicago's Whitfield, giving the Wizards a free kick opportunity from 21 yards out on the left center. A key aspect of the restart was when the KC’s Alex Zotinca managed to place himself in the Fire's defensive wall.

Simutenkov's shot curved through a spot which had immediately been vacated by Zotinca, and roared in upon Ring. He got his right hand to the shot, and the ball's impetus redirected skyward. It struck the crossbar and deflected earthbound where it hit Ring's head and glanced into the net.

The field at Arrowhead Stadium was tighter than it had been for previous MLS matches there. To avoid having to paint over the gridiron team's insignia in the end zones, the soccer goal lines were closer to each other. I estimate the actual size of the pitch was 105 yards long by 68 yards wide.

There were some last moment changes on the game's telecast as well. The telecast rights to the final passed from Fox Sports World to the practically new GolTV channel. This was its first live broadcast of a soccer match from inside the U.S.A. Phil Schoen did the English-language broadcast from Arrowhead Stadium, and ex-Wizards and Fire player Frank Klopas was penciled in to do the color commentary. But the 22nd became the day of the Major Indoor Soccer League's Dallas Sidekicks dispersal draft, and Klopas, as the coach of the new Chicago Storm of the MISL, felt he needed to remain in Chicago to do the research and make the actual selections.

His replacement was hallowed U. S. soccer coach Ron Newman. GolTV has Real Madrid's (Spain) monetary backing behind it. It takes advantage of the technological advance of "secondary audio programming" to provide simultaneous English and Spanish language announcers. GolTV is available on Dish Network direct broadcast satellite.

In news you most likely will not read anywhere else, I can absolutely state that the Dewar Cup again had its own malfunction. Just like some pop singer back in January, its top came off, after it had been presented to the Wizards. I saw the disconnected top portion of the Dewar Cup being carried through a passageway beneath Arrowhead Stadium by someone from the United States Soccer Federation.

Wizards  0  0  1 = 1
Fire     0  0  0 = 0

Wizards: Igor Simutenkov 95' (Free Kick)

Kansas City Wizards (adidas®: Blue): #1 Tony Meola (Cpt.); #3 Nick Garcia, #6 Jose Burciaga, Jr., #12 Jimmy Conrad, #23 Alex Zotinka; #5 Kerry Zavagnin, #7 Diego Gutierrez, #10 Francisco Gomez (#20 Igor Simutenkov 46'), #14 Jack Jewsbury (#26 Taylor Graham 68'); #15 Josh Wolff, #22 Davy Arnaud.

Chicago Fire (Nike®: Yellow w/red; dark blue; dark blue): #13 Henry Ring; #2 J. Brown (Cpt.), #3 Evan Whitfield, #5 Jim Curtin, #6 Kelly Gray; #12 Logan Pause (#14 Chris Armas 88'), #15 Jesse Marsch, #16 Andy Williams, #17 Dipsy Selolwane; #8 Damani Ralph, #11 Nate Jaqua.

Shots: Wizards 15, Fire 9. Shots on goal: Wizards 5, Fire 1. Fouls: Wizards 15, Fire 23. Corner kicks: Wizards 1, Fire 8. Saves: Wizards 1, Fire 4. Offsides: Wizards 4, Fire 1. - Discipline - Fire: Logan Pause 21' Caution (Delaying a restart) Wizards: Diego Gutierrez 80' Caution (Reckless foul) Attendance = 8819

In other outdoor soccer news, congratulations to the Montreal Impact, and their coach Nick DeSantis, on winning the 2004 A-League Championship, defeating the Seattle Sounders by 2-nil on September 18.

A reminder to my readers: The 2004-05 Major Indoor Soccer League season will begin on Saturday, October 9. In lieu of a pre-season tournament, teams will have exhibitions versus other MISL sides and some American Indoor Soccer League teams. The MISL’s divisional alignment is such:

East Central West
Baltimore BLAST Milwaukee WAVE Kansas City COMETS
Philadelphia KIXX Saint Louis STEAMERS San Diego SOCKERS
Cleveland FORCE Chicago STORM Monterrey FURY

In the forty-game schedule, each team will play the two other teams in their division eight times, and the six teams in the other divisions four times.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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