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Sporting Kansas City-Revolution Preview
By JORDAN GARRETSON
(AP) -- The New England Revolution had their first playoff appearance in four years cut short by Sporting Kansas City. They'll try to avenge that loss in the clubs' first meeting of 2014 on Saturday night.
New England won 2-1 at home in the first leg of the teams' Western Conference semifinal matchup last year, but Sporting KC returned the favor with a 3-1 home victory in extra time Nov. 6 - recording 32 shots compared to five for New England - to win 4-3 on aggregate en route to its second MLS Cup.
The Revolution (2-3-2) entered Saturday's match with an improving offense, having tallied five goals during a 2-1-1 stretch after being held scoreless in their first three games.
New England has been more impressive defensively, not allowing a goal in its two home matches, and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth helped secure a 1-all draw at Chicago last Saturday.
Lee Nguyen provided the tying goal on a penalty in the 31st minute while Shuttleworth recorded five of his six saves in the second half, including a stop on Juan Luis Anangono's penalty kick in the first minute of stoppage time.
"He came up high on set pieces and crosses and he owned the box," coach Jay Heaps told the team's official website. "He didn't have a ton of work to do but when he was called upon to make a penalty save he did it right. That's a huge one."
Shuttleworth was the loser in a 3-0 road defeat in the teams' last regular-season meeting Aug. 10. Kansas City has gone 3-0-2 in the last five regular-season matchups, shutting out New England each time.
Sporting (3-1-2) has outscored opponents 9-3 in five matches since a 1-0 road loss to Seattle in its opener.
A 4-0 home victory over Montreal on Saturday was just the second four-goal performance in the team's last 88 matches, while it posted its third clean sheet in four games.
Dom Dwyer has four goals in his past four matches after scoring twice in the second half for his first career multi-goal effort.
Eric Kronberg needed to make only one save for his third shutout of the year and eighth in 16 career starts.
"When you don't give up many goals and you have the kind of players we have in our attack, you can defend and keep clean sheets and get a lot of points over the course of the season," Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said. "They were very good but I always say that it starts from the front and goes to the back."
New England might not be at full strength after Diego Fagundez left at halftime against the Fire due to back tightness, though the team is hopeful he'll be able to play. Fagundez led the team with 13 goals in 2013 but is the only scoreless player in the league with at least seven shots on goal this season.
"(Diego is) always a dangerous option up top," Nguyen said. "He's always constantly moving so it's tough for opposing defenses to get a read on him. We miss that from him when he's off the pitch."
The Revolution will also be without defender Kevin Alston, who is suspended after receiving a red card last Saturday for handling the ball on the goal line.
Updated April 25, 2014