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Revolution-Sporting Kansas City Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Sporting Kansas City finished atop the Eastern Conference in the 2011 regular season, making their struggles against the last-place New England Revolution all the more perplexing.
After beginning 2012 with a dramatic victory, Kansas City will look to end a three-game winless streak against New England in its home opener Saturday night.
Sporting KC beat D.C. United 1-0 in its season opener last Saturday when reigning MLS rookie of the year C.J. Sapong scored in the third minute of stoppage time.
Expectations have risen for KC after finishing atop the East last season and making a run to the conference finals before falling to Houston, and to coach Peter Vermes the opener was a great start.
"We just have to pick up from where we left off. We don't want to just start from scratch anymore," Vermes told the team's official website. "It was good performance overall, and it's a really great way to take a win back to open in our stadium again."
Kansas City began 2011 with a 10-game road trip - the longest in MLS history - while construction on Livestrong Sporting Park was completed.
Sporting KC went 1-6-3 in that stretch, including a 3-2 loss to New England on April 23. Kei Kamara scored twice, but the Revolution scored the winning goal in the 83rd minute.
Kansas City certainly has to be happy it won't have to wait as long to play on its home field this season.
It went 4-0-4 in its first eight matches there, including a 1-all draw versus the Revolution on July 30. Teal Bunbury scored in the 89th minute to help salvage a point.
New England had only 28 points all of 2011, though it earned four against the conference's regular-season champions. It likely will need to improve its effort from its 2012 opener if it's to keep the unbeaten streak against Sporting KC alive.
The Revolution fell 1-0 at San Jose last Saturday, and first-year coach Jay Heaps said the team is still struggling to mesh.
"I'm a little disappointed in the way we played," Heaps told the team's official website. "We're still getting accustomed to movements and the way we (want to) play. The overall technique just wasn't there."
The game featured only one shot on goal from each team, though the best chance went to the Earthquakes - a trend Revolution goaltender Matt Reis said contributed to a frustrating 2011.
"You can't give other teams chances. We did that a lot last year, and it really hurt us," Reis said. "It's something that we have to get better at.
"In the end, there are a lot of positives to take out of this. It's definitely something we can move forward with."
Though the Revolution have played well overall against Kansas City recently, both wins in that 2-0-1 stretch have come at home.
Sporting KC is 3-0-1 at home in the last four meetings, outscoring New England 9-3.
Shalrie Joseph scored in each of the Revolution's last two victories over Kansas City.
Updated March 16, 2012