Starting XI is a biweekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights 11 of the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City, MLS and soccer around the globe. Click here to visit the Starting XI archive.
1. There and Back Again
Even with limited opportunities and minutes, Benny Feilhaber made quite the impression in his first appearance with the U.S. Men’s National Team in nearly three years. MLSSoccer.com lauded Feilhaber’s 13-minute cameo, awarding him the second-highest player rating on the team while World Soccer Talk had a similar view of his performance. Head coach Bruce Arena praised Graham Zusi’s performance at right back after the game, while FOX Sports looks at what Zusi’s attacking prowess along the backline will mean for the USMNT moving forsard.
2. Not a Moment too Soony
Sporting Kansas City will welcome back a familiar face in the coming days. Forward Soony Saad, who bagged 14 goals for the club from 2011-2014, has begun his second stint with Sporting KC after inking a multi-year deal on Monday. Saad, 24, will join the team for preseason training this week after spending the previous two years in Thailand’s top division. The Lebanese international is the fifth attacking player Sporting KC has acquired this offseason.
3. The Wait is Over
Fans longing for Sporting Kansas City to take the field will finally be treated to preseason soccer on Tuesday in Tucson, Arizona. After three months away from the field, the club will meet the San Jose Earthquakes at noon CT in the first scrimmage of the 2017 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. Live updates from Kino Sports Complex will be available via Twitter @SportingKC as a pair of Western Conference foes continue their preparations for the 2017 campaign. Manager Peter Vermes has a plethora of lineup options heading into the game, with Feilhaber and Zusi the only notable absentees.
4. Desert Days
They may not have played a game yet, but the Sporting KC squad has been up to all sorts since arriving in Tucson early last week. Take a look inside Tim Melia’s van as a host of new faces play Catch Phrase to kill time on the way to training, while Cameron Iwasa is the latest player to take over the Sporting KC Snapchat. Finally, get an inside glance at preseason practice in Molly Dreska’s photo gallery.
5. Single-game Tickets Available to General Public on Wednesday
While single-game tickets were made available to Season Ticket Members on Friday, this Wednesday it’s time for everyone else to get in on the act. Single-game tickets for the opening 10 MLS games of the season at Children’s Mercy Park will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday through SeatGeek.
6. You Can Handle the Truth
Want to ask Manager Peter Vermes about tactics and player signings? Care to hear President Jake Reid talk about the club’s major endeavors in 2017? Then RSVP to the Sporting Kansas City Fan Forum, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9 at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Hosted by soccer analyst Andy Edwards, the fan forum will allow supporters to interact with Vermes and Reid in a candid, open-ended conversation. All topics of discussion are fair game, and No Other Pub will offer free appetizers and games throughout the night. Click here to RSVP while spots last.
7. Views from Swope Park
Christian Duke’s name will go down in Raider Athletics history after the Rangers captain became the first soccer player inducted into the Raider Athletic Hall of Fame. Late last week, the USL announced each club’s home openers ahead of the full schedule release in the coming days, with SPR hosting OKC Energy FC on March 25. In addition, the Rangers rounded out their technical staff with the addition of goalkeeper coach Gavin McInerney from the Rochester Rhinos.
8. Manifest Destiny
With January 31 the deadline for the first round of MLS expansion hopefuls, several teams were looking to get their application affairs in order this last week. SI.com’s Brian Straus takes an in-depth look at the six main markets looking to join MLS, while last week USL club Phoenix Rising FC stated their expansion intentions. Close to home, it’s crunch time for St. Louis’ expansion bid, with steady progress being made on a stadium plan. Fans can keep their eyes on MLSSoccer.com for live updates over the next few days on expansion developments.
A two-time World Cup veteran for the U.S. Men’s National Team is coming to Major League Soccer for the first time. The Philadelphia Union announced on Monday the acquisition of 34-year-old Oguchi Onyewu, who has amassed nearly 300 professional appearances across Europe — including stints with the likes of Newcastle United, AC Milan and Sporting CP. The hulking defender had major roles at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and has 69 caps to his name.
10. Minnesota Makes Molino Move
Expansion side Minnesota United FC made a huge transfer splash last Thursday, acquiring midfielder Kevin Molino from Orlando City in exchange for $650,000 in allocation money. The deal goes down as one of the most expensive exchanges of allocation money in MLS history, seeing Molino rejoin former Orlando head coach Adrian Heath in Minnesota. Benjamin Baer of MLSsoccer.com assessed the blockbuster move, pondering whether Molino’s move will be worth the cost.
11. FA Cup Dreams
Liverpool’s dismal January continued with a home FA Cup exit at the hands of Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, and Ryan Rosenblatt from FOX Sports wonders if the side’s January results may derail their entire season. Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United all advanced comfortably, but Tottenham Hotspur were given a major scare by League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, with Son Heung-min’s 97th-minute goal giving Spurs a 4-3 victory at White Hart Lane. Non-League side Sutton United got their fairytale draw in the Fifth Round with a home date against Arsenal.
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tues., Jan. 31, 1:45pm||Arsenal vs. Watford||English Premier League||NBC Sports Live|
|Tues., Jan. 31, 2pm||Liverpool vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Wed., Feb. 1, 1pm||Burkina Faso vs. Egypt||African Cup of Nations||beIN Sports Connect|
|Wed., Feb. 1, 1:45pm||West Ham United vs. Manchester City||English Premier League||NBC Sports Live|
|Wed., Feb. 1, 2pm||Manchester United vs. Hull City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Wed., Feb. 1, 2pm||Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona||Spanish Copa del Rey||beIN Sports|
|Thur., Feb. 2, 1pm||Cameroon vs. Ghana||African Cup of Nations||beIN Sports|