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Sporting Kansas City-Fire Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Sporting Kansas City's franchise-best start seems like a distant memory after back-to-back shutout losses.
Facing the potentially fatigued Chicago Fire could help it get back on track, though Kansas City will be looking for just its fourth victory in 20 road games in the series Saturday night.
Sporting KC (7-2-0) began the season with seven consecutive victories, but it's on a 205-minute scoreless streak after falling 1-0 at Portland on April 21 and 2-0 to Montreal last Saturday.
Kansas City has also seen its defense decline in the last two matches, as the three goals allowed are one more than it gave up in the first seven contests.
"I think we got outfought, and I can honestly say that it's the first time that this team, our team, that it's happened to us this year," midfielder Graham Zusi told the league's official website following the latest loss. "I can pretty much promise you that it won't happen again."
Sporting KC, which hasn't been shut out three straight times since June 26-July 10, 2010, had two weeks off between matches and put only four of its 22 shots on net Saturday.
"We were around their goal and had chances, but everything was off the mark," coach Peter Vermes said. "That's not from being off two weeks. We weren't there and we weren't sharp enough."
That's generally been the case for Kansas City in Chicago, where it's gone 3-14-2. Sporting KC, though, has managed to score two goals in each of its last three contests there, going 1-1-1.
The Fire (3-2-3) are winless in their last three at home after a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, and they'll be playing their third game in nine days Saturday.
"We like this kind of period," forward Patrick Nyarko told the team's official website. "You catch a rhythm rather than playing one week and having the next week off. When games come quick, if you falter in the previous game, you can redeem yourself right away.
"We're conditioned to last an entire season. Three games in a week, that's what we're trained to do."
Chicago and Kansas City have played to five draws in the last eight meetings, with the Fire winning twice in that stretch.
"It's our third game in a week, so it's definitely going to be tough," defender Gonzalo Segares said. "(Kansas City) lost their last game, so they're going to want to be on the field as quick as possible to redeem themselves. They're a very physical team."
The Fire may have gained some confidence by shutting out Western Conference power Salt Lake, but they had allowed two goals in three of their previous five contests.
"We're always looking to improve," goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "We've gone from (allowing) two goals, to one goal, to none now. So we're going to see if we can keep this going into the game on Saturday against Kansas City."
The teams played to a scoreless tie in the most recent meeting June 9.
Updated May 11, 2012