Kansas City Wizards: 2007 Season Preview

MLSnet.com: 2006 Season Wrap
MLSnet.com: Big Questions after '06
My Thoughts on the Wizards’ '06 (Know my biases)

2006-07 Off-Season Changes
Soccer New England’s Ins & Outs - again, Hartman’s about the end of it...

Kansas City Wizards’ roster from MLSnet.com

And now, the Future...

Key Men
Nick Garcia - Gotcha! Thought I was going to say Jimmy Conrad, didn’t you? Important as Conrad is to the team, the thing to remember is what happened - or allegedly happened (see year-end review) - when guys like Conrad left for World Cup duty: the Wizards started sucking and rarely stopped for the rest of the summer. Conrad will be gone again in 2007, for one month at least, which means the players who stick around - especially a veteran like Garcia - will have to hold things and keep the record rolling while they’re away.

Kevin Hartman - When you’re the only high-profile trade to come to a team - and in a high-profile position no less - the spotlight just kind of finds you. While I never thought Bo Oshiniyi was a bad ‘keeper, I feel comfortable calling Hartman an upgrade. His off-moments do come, but they’re rare enough for him to retain middle-to-high upside. Coming in as a “star” may help him to a leadership role, which, again, could help while guys like Conrad are away.

Eddie Johnson - A telling moment came early in last Sunday’s U.S. v. Ecuador game: a teammate (Dempsey, I think) sent Johnson on a run to the right corner of the Ecuadorian defense; Johnson, in trying to collect the ball, spazzed causing the ball to bounce around between his legs; momentum and any possible play died on the spot. The thing is, this kid’s confidence is shot. If he can find anyway to play remotely as advertised, the Wizards will immediately improve. Things are to a point where I can’t see that happening...fortunately for the Wizards, they’ve got a competent, and improving, back-up in Scott Sealy (who, incidentally, must be pissed when he thinks about what his under-performing colleague makes).

Jose Burciaga Jr. - Amazingly, this left-back was “Mr. Offense” for Kansas City last year. While many of his eight goals came on PKs, his eight assists, by definition, did not. Burciaga counts among the most under-noticed players in MLS, but that doesn’t do anything to his production; he’d be an asset on any team.

Additional Assets
To be honest, I’m at a loss to name one. They seem to have plenty of talent, but something keeps it from coming out...perhaps too much fluoride in KC? Not that that won’t stop me from trying below...

Wait, I've got one: Settled Ownership - It must be nice to enter a season without thinking you'll be gone the following year.

The Same Mix Mystery - Why a team that missed the playoffs two seasons running made so few changes to their roster I’ll never know. As good as the Wizards look on paper, surely the time will come when a shake-up needs to happen. It’s entirely possible that should have come last year and that the resignation of long-time coach Bob Gansler only started a necessary house-cleaning. The folks who run the Wizards apparently disagreed. We’ll see how that works for them. Suffice to say, I filed this where I did for a reason.

Really Feeling the Draft - To use a favorite term, the Wizards’ roster is a veritable “who’s that?” of names. I’ve heard snippets about guys like Yura Movsisyan, Ryan Pore, and Will John, but there’s a good-sized parade of anonymity that follows: Michael Harrington, Tyson Wahl, Ryan Raybould, Willy Guadarrama, A. J. Godbolt, Lance Watson, Aaron Hohlbein, Edson Elcock, and Michael Kraus. Assuming I didn’t miss anyone, those links should contain as much happy puff as the league has on these guys. But, painful as it is to say, it's a safer bet to wait on one of these guys to come good as it is to wait on Eddie Johnson's brain to settle down.

Prospects - Using Gambling Analogies
The Wizards’ front-office mentality matches that of a poker player who has sucked eggs all night, but who refuses to draw for an inside straight. Sometimes changing one’s luck requires long-shot risks. Johnson’s mammoth contract, which was undeniably a long-shot risk, is undoubtedly a factor here - and how can they unload that thing? - but the lack of off-season action really makes me wonder about this team’s chances.

I think they miss the playoffs for year number three, though there’s also room for the “starvation theory” - e.g. competitive hunger carries them over the psychic barrier that has made their late, regular seasons look like the mirror image of New England’s late surges. Still, what passes for my instincts tells me they miss out - again.

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