PARIS (AP) – Part of Sporting Kansas City's dreadful start was a blown three-goal lead against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The club's defense looks completely different going into the rematch.
These last-place teams will complete their season series Saturday night at Livestrong Park, with Kansas City unbeaten in its last six matches.
Vancouver (2-6-8) rallied for a 3-3 tie at home with Sporting Kansas City (3-6-5) on April 2. That contest featured a stunning finish as Camilo scored twice in stoppage time for the Whitecaps.
Kansas City gave up 18 goals over its first eight games but has since yielded two during a 2-0-4 stretch. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen posted his second straight shutout in Wednesday's scoreless draw at Philadelphia.
"We changed our style a little bit," Nielsen told Kansas City's official website. "Instead of chasing the ball all over the field all the time, we are coming back on the field a little bit and getting better at when to pick our moments."
Kansas City is last in the Eastern Conference and Vancouver is at the bottom of the West. A season-opening 10-game road stretch contributed to Kansas City's rough start, and a remaining schedule with plenty of home games has the club believing a turnaround is possible.
"We know we're not a last-place team," center back Matt Besler said. "A month ago when it seemed like everything was going against us, it was hard to say that. But we understand that, and we're a confident team with the talent to start climbing."
Kansas City played Wednesday without midfielder Graham Zusi, who was sidelined by a left ankle sprain. The midfielder recorded two goals and two assists in the club's previous two matches, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.
"He gives us a little different dimension on both sides of the ball, but I think the guys did a good job that were in there," coach Peter Vermes said.
The expansion Whitecaps ended a 14-game winless run - the third-longest such streak in MLS history - with last Saturday's 1-0 home victory over the Union. Alain Rochat scored in the 12th minute.
"It's amazing what a win can do, not only to the spirit of the group but to everyone else involved," captain Jay DeMerit said. "It's been a long time coming, everyone's been working for it, everyone's been showing the character to get it."
Vancouver is 0-5-3 on the road while Kansas City has not allowed a goal in two matches in its new home. The Whitecaps are 1-1-2 since Tom Soehn replaced Teitur Thordarson as coach May 30.
"This hopefully can now be the beginning," DeMerit said. "I think we need to hold ourselves to this kind of standard and I think we need to continue to do that now."
Former Kansas City defender Jonathan Leathers will return to face his old team after he was selected by Vancouver in the expansion draft.
Both teams should feature a more potent attack than the first meeting since Whitecaps top scorer Eric Hassli and Kansas City forward Omar Bravo were suspended for that match.