The Full 90

Kansas City Wizards win and look great doing it

By Matthew Schofield, Kansas City Star editorial columnist

In case anyone out there was still doubting whether the Wizards made the right move in adding head coach to Peter Vermes technical director duties, please refer to Saturday night.

For the first time in several years, the Wizards were a team with purpose. They played a soccer version of basketball's 40 minutes of Hell, a bit more difficult, as the field is several times the size of a basketball court, and the game is 90 minutes.

But from a few minutes into their home opener, his team looked fast, purposeful, aggressive and in sync as they destroyed DC United 4-0 in sloppy conditions.

Perhpas making the quality of this season's debut better stand out, the opposing coach was the man he replaced, Curt Onalfo, who I keep hearing is one of the nicer men in sport, but who's Wizards looked every bit as clueless as his United team.

Vermes, however, spent the off-season reshaping his team, building around the solid players he had, and adding some badly needed pieces (and there's a theme to the additions, speed and skill).

The new talent he threw into the mix, especially Ryan Smith (and we hope the late injury is minor) and Stephane Auvray, were exactly what this team lacked last year. All action, all the time. They made plays on both ends of the field and broke in the attack quickly and dangerously.

Smith's goal was pure poacher, but his sublime layoff for the second goal was class. And beyond the scoring, his pace and moves on the wing befuddled DC United all night and ruined their defensive shape.

As for Auvray, he ought to go ahead and start wearing the goggles, because the hair and the style of play make him look like an MLS Edgar Davids. He defends, wins balls and thinks at the speed of light. He's tough in the tackle, and breaks in stride away from them into the attack, making smart, safe passes.

The new boys were a perfect addition to a couple holdovers. Two, in particular, who weren't expected to start, drove the team all night: Jack Jewsbury and Kei Kamara. Jewsbury's bite freed up Auvray to roam. He got stronger as the game progressed.

And Kamara caused fits all night on offense, and made an impact in his own box, as well.

All in all, it was the most encouraging start to a season for the Wizards (heck for any KC team) in recent memory.

The notion going into this season was that the Wizards were building for success in 2011, when their brilliant new stadium is expected to be finished. But this team looks ready now.