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Meolaís shutout supports Molnar tally for Wizards who dump Colorado 1-0.

KANSAS CITY (Saturday, September 16, 2000) -- Goalkeeper Tony Meola continued to make his case that he is Major League Soccerís "Most Valuable Player." His first career postseason shutout tonight, coupled with Mikos Molnarís first-half goal, helped the Kansas City Wizards to a 1-0 decision over the Colorado Rapids in the opener of a quarterfinal playoff series.

The Wizards, with three points in hand, travel to Mile High Stadium in Denver Wednesday with Colorado needing a tie or victory to force a third and decisive match in Kansas City next weekend.

"You feel good winning the first playoff game," said K.C. coach Bob Gansler. "It was as we anticipated, low-scoring and highly-contested. Both teams played well and it is going to be a hell of a series. I mean, they brought three all-star caliber players off the bench."

Molnar scored his fourth goal in as many games since returning from injury, heading the ball past Colorado goalkeeper David Kramer in the 20th minute. Midfielder Preki, who has registered at least one point in seven of the Wizards' eight postseason appearances, started the play with an in-swinging free from 22 yards out. Molnar, with his back to goal, nodded the ball over Kramer from eight yards.

"Gaining three points is the main thing. Now we just have to win one more game," Molnar said. "The entire team made it happen tonight. We played as a unit from back to front. We gained the advantage tonight and did a good job."

Said Colorado coach Glenn Myernick, "It's tough to lose on a fluke thing like that, Molnar just kind of knocked the ball blindly in the general direction of the goal, and the entire game came down to that one play."

Veteran Wizards midfielder Mo Johnston was ejected late in the game, earning his second yellow card of the night after fouling defender Chris Martinez in stoppage time.

Immediately after Johnston left the field, the Colorado attack came within inches of sending the match to overtime. Paul Bravo took a shot from outside the box, directing the ball through a maze of legs in front of the net. Second-half substitute Junior Agogo, making his first appearance for the Rapids since coming off the injured reserve list, redirected the shot to the far post, but Meola made a spectacular diving save, trapping the ball against the goal post. "I don't know how the ball got through, because I was screened a little bit," Meola said. "I reacted and pinned the ball against the post; it was six inches from crossing the goal line. That was a difficult save, but we all have to make our contributions, mine just happen to come at the very end."

Meola's recorded his first playoff clean sheet in six attempts after amassing a regular-season record 16 shutouts. "Game "The first half we played super, super soccer all over the field," he said. "In the second half, Colorado served balls into the box and we defended a lot more in the back. But, we got the result we wanted and also got the jitters out, which is important."

Kansas City Wizards 1, Colorado Rapids 0

Lineups: Kansas City - Tony Meola, Nick Garcia, Peter Vermes, Brandon Prideaux, Chris Klein (Chris Brown 46), Kerry Zavagnin, Matt McKeon (Francisco Gomez 67), Chris Henderson, Preki (Brian Johnson 77), Mo Johnston, Miklos Molnar. Colorado - -David Kramer, Marcelo Balboa, Chris Martinez, David Vaudreuil, Scott Vermillion, Ross Paule, Jason Bent, Wes Hart (Junior Agogo 62), Jason Moore (Anders Limpar 75), Paul Bravo, Matt Okoh (Jorge Dely Valdes 46).

Kansas City - Molnar (Preki) 18.

Total shots: Kansas City 12 (Henderson 4), Colorado 19 (Okoh 3, Bent 3). Shots on goal: Kansas City 8 (Henderson 2, Molnar 2), Colorado 6 (six players with 1). Saves: Kansas City - Meola 6; Colorado - Kramer 7. Fouls: Kansas City 24 (Johnston 6), Colorado 19 (Vaudreuil 5). Offside: Kansas City 3, Colorado 5. Corner kicks: Kansas City 2, Colorado 4. Yellow card cautions: Kansas City - Garcia 24, Johnston 27, Henderson 84; Colorado - Hart 13, Vaudreuil 15, Bent 18. Red card ejection: Kansas City - Johnston (second yellow card) 92+. Possession percentage: Kansas City 48, Colorado 52.

Referee: Rich Grady. Referee's assistants: Craig Lowry, Richard Eddy. Attendance: 8,682 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Weather: Clear, 77 degrees.

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