By KURTIS LARSON
A momentary lapse of concentration early in the second-half was all Kansas City rookie Teal Bunbury needed to find space behind the TFC defense to give the Wizards a 1-0 win in front of a sellout crowd at Community American Ballpark Saturday night.
In the 62nd minute, a long clearance by Kansas City's Roger Espinoza was misjudged by the normally steady Adrian Cann. In an attempt to head the ball clear, Cann's header caromed to Bunbury who was making a run through the middle of the park. The bouncing ball fell to the K.C. rookie who then headed it past an onrushing Stefan Frei, giving the Wizards three points at home and bringing them closer to the playoff race.
Toronto's traditional road woes continued as Kansas City moves to within four points of TFC in the Eastern Conference standings. The goal was Bunbury's second game-winning tally in three games after scoring a winner in Columbus two weeks ago.
"It's been in us this whole time," Bunbury said. "I feel like now with the games that we've been playing we're getting so competitive and our true style of play and culture is coming out. Everyone's staring to have more fun.
In a physical game that saw limited chances from both sides, Toronto had opportunities to steal at least a point on the night. With newly signed DP Mista getting his first MLS start up top, the Spanish forward saw arguably the best scoring chance of the game that would have put the away side up heading into the half.
Minutes from half-time, Toronto's Maicon Santos cut in from the sideline and lofted a through ball to Mista who found space in the Kansas City defense. Toronto's number 10 received the pass well before striking a half-volley from the top of the penalty area.. Already off his line, an outstretched Nielsen got fingertips to the shot, pushing it just wide of the target.
"He (Mista) had a good first touch," Nielsen said. "You just look at the ball, keep looking at the ball, and this time I was lucky. But sometimes you are not."
"We worked hard, and like I said, they really had nothing except for three points after a fluky game," Toronto head coach Preki said. "I'd rather do nothing and get three points sometimes too."
The full-time whistle was met with strong words from the former Wizards standout, who was honored before the game for his contribution during his time as a Kansas City Wizard. Though a draw may have been a fair result, the Reds continue to struggle away from BMO Field. Toronto have claimed just seven wins in four seasons since entering the league in 2007.
"It's unfortunate," Toronto's Julian de Guzman said following the match. "I think, for me, K.C. could have been an easy team to get results against. I think there are those unlucky bounces. Sometimes a team comes away with the result they didn't (deserve)."
With the win the Wizards managed to capture the season series with Toronto after securing a 0-0 draw in Toronto earlier in the season.
Kansas City had chances to extend the lead late most notably through second-half substitute Josh Wolff, who entered the game following what appeared to be a bad muscle pull for K.C. winger Ryan Smith. In the 89th minute, Wolff tracked down a ball at the corner of the penalty area. After managing to split two Toronto defenders the veteran forward lashed a knuckling shot that Frei had trouble dealing with.
Electing to sit leading goal-scorers Dwayne De Rosario and Chad Barrett ahead of the team's Tuesday CONCACAF Champions League qualifier in Honduras, Preki brought on the pair late in an effort to salvage a point on the road. The substitution almost paid off when De Rosario linked up with Barrett in the 79th minute though a poor first touch led Barrett away from goal and his resulting shot was blocked by a sliding Jimmy Conrad.
"We have to put it behind us with a big game coming up Tuesday," De Rosario told Toronto FC TV following the match. "It was an unfortunate goal and I think we did well enough to come out of here with a tie, but those things happen."
Toronto now take a 1-0 lead to Honduras Tuesday night and need a result if they hope to qualify for the champions league group stages. They return to MLS action next Saturday at BMO Field when they host a confident Chivas USA side who are coming off a win over Columbus.
Kansas City remains at home next weekend hosting Salt Lake at Community America Ballpark before heading to San Jose the following Saturday.