KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Revolution clinched first place in the Eastern Conference by rallying from a two-goal deficit for a 2-2 tie with the Kansas City Wizards last night.
The Revolution (16-7-8, 56 points) scored in the 41st minute on a Jose Cancela free kick and on Clint Dempsey's 58th-minute goal to take a 3-point lead over D.C. United with one match remaining in the regular season.
The Revolution host Chicago at Gillette Stadium Saturday and the Wizards (11-9-11, 44 points), who fell into a fourth-place tie with the MetroStars, visit FC Dallas.
Preki, making his final regular-season home appearance, replaced Antti Sumiala in the 71st minute. Connally Edozien also entered as a striker in the 71st minute, replacing Cancela, Dempsey retreating into midfield.
Spaces soon opened all over the field, but both teams struggled to maintain possession and exploit opportunities. The Wizards continually sent defenders into the attack, but seldom threatened.
In the 85th minute, the Revolution's Khano Smith broke ahead of a defender and went down in the penalty area, referee Michael Kennedy allowing play to continue, and the entire Revolution bench rushing toward the sideline in protest.
Four minutes later, Preki's cross was headed wide by Sasha Victorine against the defending of Shalrie Joseph.
The Wizards started with a five-man midfield in an attempt to match the Revolution. But Kansas City was soon forced to drop a midfielder into the back line to withstand the Revolution's pressure.
The Revolution produced the first serious threat as Cancela found Steve Ralston on the right wing, Ralston's cross then leaving Smith for a 15-yard shot, which went wide.
The Wizards' pressure on the Revolution midfielders paid off in setting up transition attacks. Chris Klein went on a long run through the middle of the field and shot wide in the 21st minute. Five minutes later, Josh Wolff chested the ball and sent a half-volley at Matt Reis.
In the 28th minute, Sumiala checked back, gained possession, and found Wolff in between Jay Heaps and Ralston, Wolff quickly firing the shot off the inside of the far post.
In the 38th minute, Andy Dorman fouled Jose Burciaga outside the penalty area. Smith attempted to defend Diego Gutierrez's free kick but instead chipped the ball into the goal area for Jimmy Conrad to score.
In the 41st minute, Conrad fouled Smith on a long clearance just outside the goal arc. Cancela curled the free kick just inside the left post, the ball bouncing just before the goal line and past goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi. Three minutes later, Cancela's left-footed shot skidded through the goal area, then the Revolution had another assault on goal, but Joe Franchino's cross was cleared.
Cancela was playing for the first time since Sept. 3 and scored for only the second time this season, his first goal converted off a volley at the 19-second mark of a 4-2 win over the MetroStars June 25. This was Cancela's sixth goal in 62 games for the Revolution.
Kansas City's counterattacking kept the Revolution defenders off balance. But the Wizards appeared to tire in the final minutes of the half, the ability of Sumiala to maintain possession allowing them to regroup offensively and the aggressiveness of Conrad and Nick Garcia keeping the defense in position.
The Revolution had hoped to use Pat Noonan (Achilles' strain) at forward, but he was not included on the bench. The Dempsey-Smith forward pairing failed to connect but did put pressure on the Wizards and provide a threat on crosses. But the Revolution failed to advance effectively on the left wing and the Wizards concentrated on limiting Ralston on the right side.
In the 58th minute, Dempsey contested Conrad for a high ball, then won possession from Alex Zotinca and fed Smith in the penalty area. Smith held off Garcia and attempted to shoot, Conrad recovering in an attempt to clear, but Dempsey beating him to the ball and shooting under Oshoniyi to tie the score with his 10th goal.