The Full 90

Reasons to be pumped about 2011

Lately I’ve been contemplating the reasons why the Wizards struggle to score goals, and in the process found a reason to be excited about the 2011 season.But first, the downside.

For three straight years, the Wizards have been adamant that they were going to be an attack-oriented team. That sounds great, but the team can’t seem to finish in the top half of the league in goals.

This quote from then-Wizards coach Curt Onalfo basically sums up the past three seasons:

“We’re having a hard time getting the ball in the back of the net, which is frustrating. But the positive is we’re creating a lot of chances.”

Uh-huh. You could call it bad luck, but not when it goes on for three seasons.

I set out to crunch some numbers on what’s happened since the 2007 season when the Wizards finished fifth in the league in goals, and two things struck me immediately.

First is Eddie Johnson. His final season came in 2007 when he scored 15 goals, finishing fourth in the league. The next year he transferred to Fulham and the Wizards have never truly filled the void. And I say that with all due respect to Kei Kamara, Josh Wolff and the other Wizards goal scorers.

Omar Bravo may be that natural goal-scorer the team desperately lacks. His resume at Chivas Guadalajara would lead you to believe that.

Second is CommunityAmerica Ballpark. The Wizards left Arrowhead Stadium after the 2007 season, and their pressing attack hasn’t fit well in the smaller confines of the CAB.

Coach/technical director Peter Vermes has said that the size of the field hasn’t affected the play, but just think back to the Manchester United friendly. Seeing Ryan Smith running free with acres of space was a thing of beauty.

And that’s what you’ll get next year at the new stadium where the dimensions will be 120 yards by 75 yards. (CAB is listed at 110 by 70.)

That high-flying style of play will be unleashed, and Omar Bravo (100-plus goals at Chivas) will team with Kamara (a solid 10 goals this year), Smith (leads the team with 7 assists) and Teal Bunbury (5 goals in his rookie season) to offer a punishing attack.

Even if things don’t pan out this year, next season should be pretty sweet.

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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