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. Practice Makes Perfect
With two intensive weeks of training in the books, Sporting Kansas City has completed leg one of the club’s 2017 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. Manager Peter Vermes utilized 33 different players over the course of two preseason scrimmages, including Tuesday’s matchup with the New England Revolution. Two players who did not feature for the club were Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi, who worked back into the group after completing a three-week training camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team last month.
2. Nansel Sel-goal
Sporting KC notched their first goal of preseason with Nansel Selbol’s close-range strike against the New England Revolution on Tuesday, but ultimately fell to a 2-1 defeat in Tucson, Ariz. SuperDraft selection Josh Smith opened the scoring for the Revolution before former Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara doubled the advantage before halftime, with Selbol reducing the deficit in the 80th minute. Manager Peter Vermes was pleased with his team’s performance, while Molly Dreska captured the action in our photo gallery.
3. Oh Captain, My Captain
A Sporting Kansas City defender has been handed the captain’s armband for his country. Erik Palmer-Brown, a 19-year-old Homegrown defender who spent 2016 on loan at FC Porto, was named captain of the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team today. U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos has selected Palmer-Brown to his 20-player roster for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship later this month, which will send four nations to South Korea for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in May.
4. Ranger Rundown
The Swope Park Rangers are finally back on the field after a three-month offseason, hosting their first training session of 2017 at Swope Soccer Village on Tuesday. The Rangers return eight players from their inaugural season, who are joined by seven new signings, while six trialists and various Academy players are also training with the side. On Wednesday, the Rangers announced the signing of Sporting KC’s third-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, adding goalkeeper David Greczek to the roster.
5. The Academy Is
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-18s and U-16s continue their 2016-17 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaigns on Saturday, meeting Solar Chelsea SC (Texas) in a doubleheader at the University of Tulsa. The U-18s will kick off at noon CT before the U-16s take the field at 2:30 p.m. CT. Both teams sit among the top three in the Frontier Division standings heading into the second half of the season. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for updates.
6. Oh, Canada
Some roadron destinations are only for the hardcore. Away tickets are now available for Sporting KC’s first trip north of the border this year, when the boys takes on MLS Cup runners-up Toronto FC at BMO Field on March 31. The deadline for ticket requests, which are provided by the club, is Friday, March 17. In addition, away tickets are still available for the season opener against D.C. United at RFK Stadium on March 4, with the deadline set for next Friday, Feb. 17.
7. Grab Your Popcorn
Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes and President Jake Reid will participate in the Sporting KC Fan Forum tonight at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District. The event will stream live beginning at 7 p.m. CT on SportingKC.com and Facebook Live. Hosted by soccer analyst Andy Edwards, the Fan Forum will see Vermes and Reid field questions from fans in attendance, creating a candid, open-ended conversation. Fans watching the live stream can submit their questions to @SportingKC on Twitter or on Facebook Live.
8. Benny There, Done That
After five years navigating the international wilderness, Benny Feilhaber pulled on a U.S. jersey to start a game for the first time since 2012 last Friday, setting up the only goal in a 1-0 USMNT victory over Jamaica. Charles Boehm writes about Feilhaber’s resurgence on MLSSoccer.com while FourFourTwo’s Scott French explains why U.S. Soccer is “in love” with the playmaker. Peter Vermes is looking forward to bringing both Feilhaber and Graham Zusi into the fold during the second leg of preseason, while Sam McDowell from the KC Star looks at how close each player is to full fitness.
9. Dax Be Damned
Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty turned heads during his first conference call since being traded from the New York Red Bulls three weeks ago. The MLS veteran, who spent six successful seasons in New York before his move to Chicago on Jan. 16, said he “didn’t think the [Red Bulls] handled the situation in a very classy way” before continuing to question how the trade was handled. McCarty’s comments come a week after Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio that he “didn’t think the trade and the way it happened honored the relationship” that he or the club had with McCarty.
10. Put the Wood in the Goal
USMNT forward Bobby Wood is proving that his knack for scoring goals in the 2. Bundesliga last season was no fluke. The 24-year-old scored his seventh goal of the season for Hamburg on Tuesday, rounding out a 2-0 victory over FC Cologne. The goal is sure to have attracted the attention of National Team head coach Bruce Arena, as Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated delves into how the gaffer will incorporate European-based national teamers ahead of the side’s crucial World Cup Qualifiers in March.
11. Jersey Drop
Several MLS clubs have unveiled their new jerseys for the 2017 season, and thanks to MLSsoccer.com, there’s one place to go to view them all. Stay tuned to SportingKC.com and the club’s social channels — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — for imminent news regarding new kits.
GAMES TO WATCH
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Fri., Feb. 10||Bordeaux vs. PSG||French Ligue 1||beIN Sports|
|Sat., Feb. 11||Arsenal vs. Hull City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sat., Feb. 11||Manchester United vs. Watford||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sat., Feb. 11||Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League||NBC Sports Live|
|Sat., Feb. 11||Deportivo Alaves vs. Barcelona||Spanish La Liga||beIN Sports|
|Sat., Feb. 11||Ingolstadt vs. Bayern Munich||German Bundesliga||FOX Sports 1|
|Sun., Feb. 12||Burnley vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sun., Feb. 12||Cagliari vs. Juventus||Italian Serie A||beIN Sports|
|Mon., Feb. 13||Bournemouth vs. Manchester City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Mon., Feb. 13||Lazio vs. AC Milan||Italian Serie A||beIN Sports|