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. How Bow Dah?
In his first start for the U.S. Men’s National Team since 2012, Benny wasn’t messing around. Feilhaber was a constant thorn in the Jamaican’s side and provided the assist for Jordan Morris’ goal with a cute back heel and quick one-two with the Seattle forward to give the USMNT a 1-0 victory in their final tune-up ahead of crucial World Cup Qualifiers in March. Feilhaber earned plaudits from various sources, many of whom expect him to play a key role next month. While Feilhaber was naturally elated after the game, Sporting KC teammate Graham Zusi captained the side as he continued to impress in his new defensive role at right back.
2. Revving Up
Sporting Kansas City faces the New England Revolution on Tuesday to round out leg one of the club’s 2017 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. The scrimmage will kick off at noon CT at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona, with live updates on Twitter at @SportingKC. Matt Besler and Dom Dwyer sat out last week’s preseason opener as a precaution and continue to make positive strides in recovering from offseason ankle surgeries. Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, meanwhile, have joined the club following a pair of friendlies with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
3. Ask Us Anything
RSVPs are open for the Sporting KC Fan Forum with Manager Peter Vermes and President Jake Reid, set for Thursday at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Hosted by soccer analyst Andy Edwards, the Fan Forum will see Vermes and Reid engage with fans in attendance, fielding questions to create a candid, open-ended conversation in which all topics are open for discussion. Supporters wishing to attend must RSVP at SportingKC.com/fanforum while spaces last. Doors will open at 6 p.m. CT and fans will be treated to complimentary appetizers and Till Vodka drink specials.
Now we all know that Ike Opara can chug a bottle of Coca-Cola in one attempt. Flanked by Seth Sinovic, Opara produces a cameo depicting Mean Joe Green from the classic 1979 Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial. The duo starred in the spoof, which featured on FOX 4, ahead of what turned out to be one of the most dramatic Super Bowl showdowns in history, with the New England Patriots claiming their fifth title after coming back from 28-3 down to top the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 on Sunday night.
5. Leap for Lebo
The Swope Park Rangers open preseason camp this week at Swope Soccer Village, and a new signing will be joining the squad in their preparations. Earlier on Monday, the Rangers added South African midfielder Lebo Moloto, who represented the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL’s Eastern Conference the last two seasons. Chad Smith from the Blue Testament takes a deeper look at Moloto’s signing. The Rangers will play six preseason games prior to their opener against OKC Energy FC on March 25, with a full preseason schedule here.
6. Geeking Out
Sporting KC’s new partnership with SeatGeek is off to a flying start. As the Sports Business Journal reported earlier today, initial returns on the club’s new ticketing platform with SeatGeek have shown more mobile-based purchases, more new buyers into the system and more sales volume overall. SBJ also provided an update on Sporting KC’s new headquarters, located in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. More space means more room for the Sporting KC brand to breathe throughout the office.
7. Lo Leaves for PDX
Sporting KC on Friday traded midfielder Lawrence Olum to the Portland Timbers in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and a first-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Olum spent five seasons in Kansas City, logging more than 100 appearances and playing in the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final and 2013 MLS Cup. The 32-year-old Kenyan is the second former Sporting KC player to join Portland this offseason, following veteran defender Chance Myers.
8. Back In Bloom
After two months away from the field, the Sporting Kansas City Academy resumes competition in the 2016-17 U.S. Soccer Development Academy on Saturday. The U-18s and U-16s — both among the top three in the Frontier Division standings — will travel to the University of Tulsa for a doubleheader with Solar Chelsea SC beginning at noon CT. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
In related news, Sporting KC, the Swope Park Rangers and the Academy collectively have six players currently representing the United States at the U-20 (Erik Palmer-Brown), U-19 (Felipe Hernandez, Will Little), U-17 (Grayson Barber, Jaylin Lindsey) and U-16 levels (Christian Duke).
9. Caught on Camera
Raging at the ref might become a thing of the past, if the new Video Assistant Referee testing works as intended. The system was implemented in select USL games in 2016, and testing is continuing during the ongoing MLS preseason. The VAR program is on schedule to be rolled out league-wide after the MLS All-Star game on Aug. 2, and you can watch it in effect during a preseason game between San Jose and Real Salt Lake here. Sporting KC’s preseason matchups with Colorado (Feb. 15), New York Red Bulls (Feb. 18) and New England Revolution (Feb. 22) will all feature VAR implementation.
10. Little Pea, Big Money
With GMs around MLS forever seeking to prize some of the biggest players in the world to their clubs, one player has so far proved elusive. Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito, has long been linked with a move to MLS but has yet to make the trip across the Atlantic. Paul Tenorio of FourFourTwo.com notes that most GMs around the league would pay the big bucks to bring the Mexican goal machine stateside, while the guys at MLSSoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio discuss what a summer move would look like. In other big name news, former LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane is reportedly training with Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates.
11. Lions’ Pride
On Sunday, Cameroon were crowned champions of Africa following a 2-1 victory over Egypt in the African Cup of Nations final. Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny gave Egypt the lead in the first half but Cameroon responded with second-half goals from Nicolas N’Koulou and a late strike from Vincent Aboubakar that gave the Lions their first African Cup of Nations title since 2002. One familiar face from MLS was visible in the postgame celebration, as Montreal left back Ambroise Oyongo went the full 90 minutes for Cameroon.
GAMES TO WATCH
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tue., Feb. 7||Sporting KC vs. New England Revolution||Preseason Scrimmage||@SportingKC Twitter|
|Tue., Feb. 7||Bayern Munich vs. VfL Wolfsburg||German DFB Pokal||ESPN3|
|Tue., Feb. 7||Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid||Spanish Copa del Rey||beIN Sports|
|Wed., Feb. 8||Leicester City vs. Derby County||English FA Cup||FS1|
|Wed., Feb. 8||Borussia Dortmund vs. Hertha Berlin||German DFB Pokal||ESPN3|
|Wed., Feb. 8||Mexico vs. Iceland||International Friendly||UniMas|