Preview: Kansas City vs. D.C. United
The Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United are meeting in an opener for the second time in three seasons.
Curt Onalfo was victorious in that matchup two years ago, but this time he'll be on the D.C sideline.
Onalfo will face his former team when he makes his coaching debut for United when they visit the Wizards on Saturday night.
D.C. and Kansas City both missed the playoffs in 2009, and it was clear that major changes would take place for both teams. That was already the case for the Wizards, who fired Onalfo on Aug. 22 as he finished with a 27-29-22 record in MLS play after taking over before then 2007 season.
Under Onalfo, the Wizards never made the playoffs. They finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference last year with 33 points - the third-fewest total in the league.
D.C. finished in fourth with 40 points and missed the playoffs for the second straight season under coach Tom Soehn, whose contract was allowed to expire. Onalfo, who played on United's MLS Cup championship teams in 1998 and 1999, was brought in to restore the most successful franchise in the league to its past glory.
"I am very excited to lead D.C. United into a new era, building on its storied and successful history," Onalfo said. "Having already played and served as an assistant coach for the most successful club in MLS history, I understand the expectations that come along with this position. It takes more to be the head coach of United and I fully intend to help bring D.C. its fifth MLS Cup."
D.C. has shored up one of the league's worst defenses by bringing back a former star in goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who was with the club from 2004-07 and was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006. Perkins spent the previous two seasons in Norway.
Onalfo was also a teammate of 36-year-old Jaime Moreno, the league's all-time leading scorer and the only player in MLS history with 100 goals and 100 assists. Moreno is still productive, scoring nine times last season to rank second on the club.
The Wizards' new coach is the man who fired Onalfo - Peter Vermes. His Wizards are trying to improve offensively after tying for the second-worst attack in the league with 33 goals in 2009.
"We need to be competitive not just with every match we play, but within our team, at every position," said Vermes, who went 3-7-2 as interim coach last season. "Our guys need to push the envelope at every spot if we're going to get the results on a Saturday night. If we can do that, we can be successful."
That attack may not get better since Kansas City was unable to come to terms with playmaking midfielder Claudio Lopez. The Wizards will instead rely more on Josh Wolff, who had 11 goals in 27 appearances last year, while midfielder Davy Arnaud will serve as the new captain.
These teams met three times last season, twice playing to draws in Kansas City while United won at home.