Wizards beat Manchester United 2-1 in friendly
Davy Arnaud and Kei Kamara scored first-half goals as the Kansas City Wizards beat Manchester United 2-1 in a friendly on Sunday in front of the largest crowd to see a soccer match in Kansas City.
A crowd of 52,342, the biggest for Manchester United on its North American tour so far - eclipsed the 37,319 who witnessed a World Cup qualifier here in 2001.
Arnaud scored in the 11th minute. Dimitar Berbatov converted a penalty to equalize in the 41st after defender Jimmy Conrad was sent off for a dangerous tackle on the Man United striker, but Kamara headed in the winner a minute later for the Wizards.
United was missing some star players, including Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Park Ji-sung, but Conrad was still jubilant afterward.
''MLS owns the city of Manchester right now,'' crowed Conrad. Manchester City lost to the New York Red Bulls earlier Sunday.
Wizards coach Peter Vermes was a little more humble.
''It's a great accomplishment for our team, for our organization,'' Vermes said. ''But in the end, it's an exhibition. And what matters most for us is the league, and trying to win a MLS championship. Look, they've played in Champions League finals. We're not there yet. By any means.''
Man United coach Alex Ferguson was full of praise for the Wizards.
''They're a big, strong team,'' he said. ''Athletic. Very powerful. I thought once we scored the goal we'd be all right. Too many of our shots were off target.
''The game is improving in the general play of the players. Some United States players are doing well in Europe and in England, and that's the best barometer.''
City officials were hoping a big, enthusiastic crowd, drawn partly to get their first glimpse at Arrowhead Stadium following a $375 million makeover, might also boost chances of hosting World Cup games in 2018 or 2022 - if the U.S gets to host the event.
''Events like tonight's where we're going to have over 50,000 people in the building for a soccer game I think will be a big selling point for both FIFA and U.S. Soccer when it comes time to make the decision on which stadium to bring the World Cup to,'' said Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who lobbied to bring Manchester United to Arrowhead.
With the unexpected win, Hunt and the others got all they wanted and more.
Backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg replaced Jimmy Nielsen at halftime and made five saves for the Wizards, who have not won an MLS title since 2000.
In the 11th minute, Arnaud beat United's offside trap and took a well-placed through ball from Kamara. Given the one-on-one against backup keeper Ben Amos, Arnaud dribbled into the penalty area and calmly slotted the ball into the lower left corner.
Berbatov equalized from the penalty spot in the 41st minute after Conrad was dismissed for a sliding tackle on him.
Replays appeared to show Conrad made contact with the ball before Berbatov went down, but referee Terry Vaughn went straight for the red card and Berbatov converted low into the right corner.
''I know I ended up with every piece of the ball,'' Conrad said. ''I know I had to go through him a little bit. I tried to sweep it, but I'd have to see it on replay before I could say with 100 percent certainty.''
Kamara put the Wizards up in the 42nd minute. He headed Ryan Smith's corner over Amos and off the underside of the crossbar, and the ball landed just over the goal line.
United captain Ryan Giggs said the final score only confirmed what was already evident, that the sport in the United States is on the rise.
''You can see it in the standard of the teams, the standard of the national team, the interest within the crowd and the fans,'' he said.
Manchester United's next stop will be a match against the MLS all-stars on Wednesday in Houston.