Hours after the Kansas City Wizards were eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup following a 2-1 loss to Colorado, forward Kei Kamara lay awake thinking about the lost opportunity.
The Wizards’ U.S. Open Cup dream was over before it ever truly began, snuffed out by a brace by Rapids’ midfielder Wells Thompson, but Kamara was up still up late sharing his frustrations on Twitter.
“I was up until like one in the morning,” Kamara said at training on Wednesday. “Just saying how I couldn’t sleep because you know that you played well, but it’s a competition. Its just one game and you’re out.”
To be more accurate, the Wizards played well in stretches. Two defensive lapses undid what was otherwise a solid night in the back, but Kansas City certainly didn’t take advantage of its opportunities either.
An early lead was erased by two defensive miscues, and the Wizards never truly looked completely comfortable on the turf at Stanley H. Durwood Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
So while Colorado will move on to the next round, Kansas City will watch the rest of the competition from home with one less chance to bring home silverware.
“We wanted to try to go as far as we could, and try to win the championship in the Open Cup,” manager Peter Vermes said. “That was a big thing for us, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The defeat itself was plenty disappointing, but another lost opportunity might have been equally frustrating for Vermes. With no reserve league and no outside competitions to juggle, Kansas City won’t have many chances to give its bench players valuable match time to refine its games and develop game fitness.
Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff were the only players in the first-choice 11 who started on Tuesday, although Kamara, Michael Harrington and Stéphane Auvray entered in the second half. The rest of the lineup consisted of players who figure to spend most of their time coming off the bench, but who will be key contributors nonetheless.
Teal Bunbury scored an unbelievable goal, his first as a member of the Wizards, and showed a willingness to go at defenders. Craig Rocastle’s timely tackles and crisp passing stood out all night. Vermes called Colombian center back Pablo Escobar a “monster,” in a good way.
For his part, Kamara changed the game after entering at halftime, but his impact never resulted in a goal. In the end, Kansas City’s coaching staff got a valuable 90 minutes to evaluate the squad’s depth and experiment a little tactically.
It’s 90 minutes Vermes won’t get in a competitive scenario against this season outside the team’s remaining 28 regular-season games.
“It’s important that we get a chance to play these types of games that provide the opportunities to see the other guys and give them experience,” Vermes said. “Today was a good lesson for our team.”
The Wizards don’t have any choice but to apply that lesson to their quest to return to the playoffs after a lackluster 2009. Another turf field awaits the team in Seattle, not to mention 30,000-plus screaming fans and a well-drilled opponent.
For Kamara and the Wizards, there is no time to dwell on lost opportunities—only the ones that await, beginning on Tuesday at Qwest Field.
“I guess the way we have to look at it is we’re focusing on one competition now,” Vermes said, “and that’s MLS Cup and playoffs.”