April 26, 2009 MLS Toronto FC vs Kansas City Wizards (from MLSnet.com)

Wizards can't convert chances in Toronto
Kansas City snaps four-game unbeaten streak in loss to Reds
04/26/2009 09:56 PM
By Peter Mallett / MLSnet.com Staff

TORONTO -- An outstanding performance by goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and a late-game push by star striker Claudio Lopez wasn't enough for the Kansas City Wizards, who came up short in a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sunday.

"I thought Toronto FC played an extremely competitive game," said Wizards coach Curt Onalfo. "Games like this they often come down to a play or two which usually decides the game. We fell short in that category today -- we had chances and so did they, but you have to put your chances away."

Toronto improved its record to 3-2-2 and ended a four-game Kansas City undefeated streak while the Wizards fell to 3-3-1. The win also vaulted the Reds ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Wizards in the second and last meeting of the regular season between the two teams.

Toronto dictated the play from the opening whistle with long spells of possession to open the match but couldn't find an answer for the Wizards 'keeper until early in the second half, when a 54th-minute strike by Danny Dichio decided the match.

Hartman was easily the busiest player on the field for the Wizards, stopping several Toronto scoring chances at close range. He was also quick off his line to snuff out rushes outside the Wizards penalty area as Toronto pressed for the opening goal.

"He did another nice job of keeping us in the game," said Onalfo. "Often when you see a 'keeper making good saves like that it inspires your team to push for the tying goal but it just didn't happen today."

Both teams had five shots on goal each but Hartman sparkled with acrobatic dives and aggressive play throughout the match.

"That is why they call him The Cat," said Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad. "He has cat-like reflexes, sets records and that is why he has been in the league as long as he has."

It didn't take long for the MLS all-time saves leader to get his paws on his first shot, stopping a well-placed strike by Toronto forward Pablo Vitti in the seventh minute.

In the 38th minute Hartman punched away a scorching strike by Toronto midfielder Amado Guevara. He was then called on to make point-blank saves on Chad Barrett four minutes ahead of Dichio's eventual winner.

Hartman then came up with a diving two-footed stop on Vitti in the 81st minute as Kansas City pressed for an equalizer and were exposed at the back.

"I felt we competed well and put ourselves in the position to be successful today," said Hartman. "In the end it was one play that made the difference."

Dichio notched the deciding goal nine minutes into the second half after collecting a pass from midfielder Sam Cronin at the top of the Kansas City penalty area.

Moments earlier Hartman and Dichio had wrestled on the Toronto goal line as the Reds pressed for the ice-breaker, but as the ball was then played back into the Toronto penalty area Dichio turned and laced a left-footed blast past Hartman for the only goal of the match.

"I thought we had made a good clearance of the ball and were off the hook, but the ball came back to Marvell Wynne and then Sam Cronin and Dichio was able to finish," said Hartman.

"It was disappointing because I thought we had done enough to get a point on the road but Toronto is always a difficult place to play and not too many teams walk out of here with points."

Former Argentina World Cup star Lopez looked as if he would rescue a point for Kansas City in injury time when he found himself unmarked at the top of the Toronto penalty area and unloaded a hard shot a Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Frei, who grew up watching Lopez star for Argentina in past World Cups, came up with a game-saving shot, pushing the hard Lopez blast over the top of the crossbar.

"It was a hard shot, it happened very quickly and I was fortunate and lucky to explode upwards and get a fingertip onto the ball and push it over the bar," Frei said. "Shutting him down in injury time was amazing for me because I grew up admiring his play when I was young."

Two minutes prior to the Lopez attempt, Frei also stopped second-half substitute Herculez Gomez with another great save to shock the sellout crowd at BMO Field.

Frei, who was selected by Toronto as the 13th overall pick in January's MLS SuperDraft out of University of California at Berkeley, also made a point-blank stop on Wizards striker Davy Arnaud just before the halftime break.

Arnaud -- who scored twice in the Wizards' season-opening 3-2 loss to Toronto -- looked like he was going to give the Wizards a 1-0 lead in the match but Frei was up to the challenge as Arnaud clenched his fists in frustration.

The two teams are now deadlocked with a 3-3-2 all-time head-to-head record with Kansas City still enjoying a 9-7 edge in total goals scored despite Sunday's loss.

Peter Mallett is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

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