Kansas City, Kan. – Wizards captain Davy Arnaud sat outside his locker fully dressed, clearly dejected and waiting to answer the inevitable questions.
Kansas City had just stumbled to a 3-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls punctuated by a straight red card to Arnaud in stoppage time, sending the veteran to his third ejection of the season in just 10 games played.
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As team captain and de facto spokesman, Arnaud took a deep breath and conveyed how he and his teammates felt about the Wizards sixth loss of the season as concisely as he could.
“Frustrated and angry at ourselves that we lose the game,” Arnaud said, “because for a good majority of the game we were the better team.”
And as to the validity of Ricardo Salazar’s decision to eject him for his tackle on New York midfielder Joel Lindpere?
“Honestly,” Arnaud said, “I didn’t make contact with him. Didn’t touch him.”
It was difficult to evaluate the decision from replays, but unlike previous games marred by a referee’s decision and the loss of Arnaud, Salazar’s verdict wasn’t the turning point in another disappointing result.
Like the United States 2-1 loss to Ghana earlier in the day, the Wizards habit of conceding the game’s opening goal sunk their chances to collect three points in a game they desperately needed to keep pace with the Red Bulls and the rest of the Eastern Conference front runners.
Predictably, Kansas City is now 0-6-1 when it allows the first goal. It’s a statistic that isn’t lost on the players or coaching staff, which make the trend all the more frustrating.
“Anyone that plays the game will tell you that it has a compelling influence on the rest of the game,” forward Josh Wolff said.
Even more frustrating was the manner in which New York’s Salou Ibrahim scored the all-important first goal. The fact that Ibrahim is Ghanaian only added insult to injury.
New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul’s goal kick found the head of Juan Pablo Angel, who flicked it over Wizards defender Aaron Hohlbein for Ibrahim to head past a helpless Jimmy Nielsen.
“I take responsibility on the first goal,” Hohlbein, who was making his first start and second appearance of the season, said. “I think that kind of set things off.”
Despite the error, the Red Bulls didn’t put the game away until Angel went off in the final 10 minutes. Prior to that the Wizards created plenty of chances, but couldn’t apply a finish that could beat Coundoul, a similar theme from a back-and-forth first half.
“We had some good chances,” manager Peter Vermes said, “and we have got to stick those away.”
Unlike the Wizards, New York turned their opponent's mistakes into goals and, in the end, points on Saturday night, widening the gap between the two sides to 12 points.
The prospect of losing Arnaud to suspension will be another blow to Kansas City. Vermes said he couldn’t comment on Arnaud’s red card because he hadn’t seen a replay, but he was clearly disappointed by a performance he simply deemed “not good enough.”
“This wasn’t something that we expected,” he said. “But the only thing I know how to do is go back to the drawing board, go back to the field and start working at it.”