for this game

Wizards-Sounders Preview

Apr 16, 2010 - 4:58 PM By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN STATS Senior Writer

Kansas City (2-0-0) at Seattle (1-1-1), 3:00 p.m. EDT

The Kansas City Wizards are already thrilled with newcomer Ryan Smith. The Seattle Sounders' Steve Zakuani knows all too well how good Smith can be.

Smith and Zakuani grew up as youth players in England and will meet for the first time Saturday when the surprising Wizards visit the Sounders.

Kansas City (2-0-0) finished with the second-worst attack in MLS last season with 33 goals, and the addition of Smith has clearly brought it to life. He had a goal and an assist in a season-opening 4-0 win over D.C. on March 27 and set up Kei Kamara's goal last Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Colorado.

"Obviously, he's extremely fast and quick, he's very good on the ball, he sees the game well and he's a great crosser and passer of the ball, so when that comes at you it's hard to deal with," coach Peter Vermes said.

Smith developed those skills as a youngster at English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal, the club with which Zakuani also learned the game before he came to the United States. Zakuani, who had a strong rookie season in 2009 with the Sounders, scored in last Saturday's 2-2 tie at Real Salt Lake.

Learning in the youth system of the world's top league gives Smith and Zakuani a clear edge as they get ready for their first matchup.

"We played five years together at Arsenal. He was in the age group above me, but I was always told to watch his game," Zakuani told the Sounders' official Web site. "We grew up in the same neighborhood. So we grew up being very good friends."

Seattle (1-1-1) doesn't have pleasant memories of Kansas City's visit to Qwest Field last year. The Sounders won their first three MLS matches before goalkeeper Kasey Keller was sent off and Davy Arnaud scored the lone goal for the Wizards in a 1-0 victory April 11.

The Sounders gained revenge with a 3-2 road victory Oct. 17, rallying from a goal down in the second half and winning on Nate Jaqua's 76th-minute goal that clinched the expansion team's playoff spot.

Indian forward Sunil Chhetri could make his MLS debut for Kansas City. Chhetri, one of the biggest stars in the world's second-most populated country, played 45 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Colorado in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, one day after he was added to the roster.

"We expected there to be some publicity around it, but didn't expect this much," said Greg Cotton, chief operating officer of the Wizards' parent company, OnGoal. "It's really blown us away, not only the amount of the interest, but the depth of the interest, sort of all things Sunil."