The Kansas City Wizards will close out the regular season on Saturday night against San Jose, but it will likely do so without the services of veteran defender Jimmy Conrad and forward Ryan Smith.
Conrad, who missed last weekend’s critical game against New England due to injury, is unlikely to make his way back onto the field again in 2010 with one game left and the team’s playoff hopes dashed.
Though the injury was originally reported as a concussion, the club reported on Thursday that Conrad had actually suffered from a neck strain. He has not been training with the team so far this week.
“We don’t want him around heading the ball or anything like that at the moment,” said assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin. “At this stage of the season, with the game not having significant meaning in regards to the playoffs, we’ll probably err on the side of caution with him.”
Though Zavagnin said there was a small chance Conrad could still play, it appears very likely that Matt Besler will get his fourth straight start in central defense with Shavar Thomas the probable choice to partner him.
Though he isn’t injured, Smith will not be available as he is still away from the team for personal reasons, meaning the speedy winger will miss his third consecutive game.
“He’s not with the team right now,” Zavagnin said. “He’s away on personal things so we’ll let him take care of that and return when those things are resolved.”
Defender Michael Harrington and forward Teal Bunbury are also dealing with minor knocks but are expected to be available on Saturday.
Set pieces continue to frustrate Wizards
Despite drawing the second-most fouls (342) in MLS and taking the fourth-most corner kicks (146), Kansas City have failed to take full advantage of their copious opportunities from dead-ball situations.
The Wizards haven’t scored from a corner kick this season and have just three goals from set pieces all year despite having plenty of chances.
“It’s been a combination of things,” Zavagnin said of the team’s struggles from corners and other dead-ball situations. “If you look at successful set-piece teams, first and foremost they have good service. Our service throughout the course of the year was inconsistent. That’s one of the components that leads to poor set pieces. The runs in the box, running with commitment and finishing the runs weren’t 100 percent all the time either.”
The service into the box should improve next season with Omar Bravo in the fold, and Zavagnin said converting dead-ball opportunities into goals—and points—will be one of the coaching staff’s priorities in 2011.