Starting XI: Dynamo Double-Dip

Starting XI - Oct. 9, 2017

Starting XI, presented by Ford, is a biweekly series on 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. Honors Even

Sporting KC moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference following a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United FC on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Forward Diego Rubio fired Sporting KC (12-7-12, 48 points) ahead on the stroke of halftime, but an 84th-minute header from Brent Kallman salvaged a point for the Loons (10-16-6, 36 points) and denied Manager Peter Vermes’ men what would have been a playoff-clinching victory.

2. Hamstrung

Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia will be sidelined for two to four weeks after suffering a right hamstring strain in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Minnesota United FC, the club announced today. Melia has started all 36 matches for Sporting KC this year, including five in the club's run to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. His 0.78 goals against average in MLS is the second-lowest mark in league history among goalkeepers with at least 30 appearances in a single season. Melia is also second on the MLS charts with 10 shutouts and leads the league with three penalty kick saves.

3. Dynamo Double-Dip

Manager Peter Vermes' men (12-7-12, 48 points) now enter the penultimate week of the 2017 MLS regular season, where they will face rivals Houston Dynamo (11-10-10, 43 points) in back-to-back fixtures on Wednesday and Sunday, respectively. Wednesday's match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, with three hours of live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO. Listeners can follow the action on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM Spanish), and The Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately after the match on 99.3 FM. With a win or a draw, Sporting KC can clinch a club-record seventh straight playoff berth with two regular season matches to spare.

The teams will meet again Sunday at 6:30 p.m. CT inside Children's Mercy Park, serving as Sporting KC's final home game of the 2017 regular season campaign. FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO will broadcast three hours of live coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CT, while ESPN 99.3 and La Grande 1340 AM will provide radio calls with The Final Whistle postgame show airing afterward on 99.3 FM. A pair of wins against Houston this week would see Sporting KC clinch a top-two finish in the Western Conference and a knockout-round bye in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. A limited number of tickets for Sunday's clash are available at

4. #Get3GetThru

The U.S. Men's National Team can punch its ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a win over Trinidad and Tobago in Tuesday's Hexagonal finale at Ato Boldon Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. CT on beIN SPORTS and Universo as the Americans look to secure their eighth straight World Cup appearance. Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi are in contention to feature Tuesday in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, making Sporting KC the most represented club on head coach Bruce Arena's 25-man roster. Besler started and played 90 minutes in Friday's crucial 4-0 hammering of Panama, while Feilhaber and Zusi were unused substitutes.

The U.S. MNT sits two points ahead of fourth-place Panama and fifth-place Honduras, with the top three finishers in the Hex earning automatic berths to next summer's World Cup in Russia. The fourth-place finisher, meanwhile, will face Australia or Syria in a two-legged World Cup playoff in November.

5. Pole Position

Sporting KC homegrown signing Jaylin Lindsey and the United States all but clinched a spot in the FIFA U-17 World Cup knockout rounds with a 1-0 group stage victory over Ghana on Monday at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India. Lindsey started and played 90 minutes at right back for the second straight game, contributing to another U.S. shutout after featuring in last Friday's 3-0 win against India.

The triumph puts head coach John Hackworth's side in cruise control in Group A, three points ahead of the chasing pack. The U.S. can clinch first place in the group with a draw against Colombia in Thursday's contest at Dr. DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, kicking off at 9:30 a.m. CT on FS2 and Universo. Even if the Americans lose in their group stage finale, they are likely to advance as either the second-place finisher in Group A or as one of the four best third-place finishers across the six groups.

6. Cape Verde Christening

Sporting KC midfielder Kevin Oliveira earned his senior debut for Cape Verde on Saturday, entering as an 85th-minute substitute in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Senegal in the Cape Verdean capital of Praia. Seeking their first-ever appearance in the FIFA World Cup, Cape Verde battled resolutely against a heavily favored Senegal side before conceding two late goals.

The defeat could prove costly for a Cape Verde outfit that falls to third place in Group D of CAF Qualifying. Only the top finisher will advance to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer. Oliveira and Cape Verde will end their qualifying campaign on Nov. 6, traveling to face Burkina Faso.

7. Soony Overseas

Sporting KC forward Soony Saad will be in contention for his 10th cap when the Lebanon Men's National Team hosts North Korea in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday, kicking off at 9:30 a.m. CT at Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut, Lebanon. Saad, 25, has scored three goals in nine previous appearances for Lebanon since debuting in 2013. He has played two AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in recent months, starting in a 2-1 win over Malaysia on June 13 and coming off the bench in a 2-2 draw at North Korea on Sept. 5.

Lebanon is five points clear atop Group B of AFC Asian Cup qualifying with three matches still to play between now and March 2018. The top two finishers in the group will advance to the AFC Asian Cup, Asia’s quadrennial national team tournament in which Lebanon made its lone appearance in 2000.

8. Home Finale

The Swope Park Rangers will host Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Wednesday in their 2017 USL regular season finale at Children's Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available at or at the venue box office on matchday. Led by head coach Nikola Popovic, the Rangers (16-8-7, 55 points) can secure a top-four finish in the Western Conference and a home playoff game between Oct. 20-22 with a win over Seattle (9-17-4, 30 points), so long as Phoenix Rising FC doesn't match SPR's superior goal difference with a win over Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday.

9. GA Cup Cruise

Swope Soccer Village and the Sporting Kansas City Academy hosted 2017-18 Generation adidas Cup West Region qualifying matches this weekend, showcasing Major League Soccer's best youth talent from the U-15 and U-17 levels. The Sporting KC U-17s went three games unbeaten, prevailing on penalty kicks against Seattle Sounders FC following a 2-2 draw on Friday before edging Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Saturday and hammering the San Jose Earthquakes 5-1 this morning.

10. Eyes on First

Sporting KC enters the penultimate week of the 2017 regular season just three points behind first-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC with a game hand. Vancouver missed the chance to extend their lead atop the West after falling 3-0 on Saturday to a New York Red Bulls side that clinched the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With two weeks of the campaign still to play, all six playoff teams in the East have been decided, while only the Whitecaps have clinched a postseason berth in the West.

11. CONMEBOL Madness

Lionel Messi and powerhouse Argentina are at serious risk of missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup as CONMEBOL qualifying enters its final matchday on Tuesday. The top four finishers in the South American region will advance to the World Cup, while the fifth-place finisher will face New Zealand in a two-legged playoff next month. With Brazil safely through and Uruguay all but qualified, third through seventh place are completely up in the air. Argentina currently sits in sixth place, but can finish no worse than fifth with a victory at Ecuador. Chile and Colombia are tied for third with 26 points apiece and will visit Brazil and Peru, respectively, while seventh-place Paraguay hosts Venezuela. 

Games to Watch (Oct. 10-12)

Tuesday, 1:45pm
Portugal vs. Switzerland
World Cup Qualifying
Tuesday, 1:45pm
France vs. Belarus
World Cup Qualifying
<strong>Tuesday, 7pm</strong>
<strong>USA at Trinidad and Tobago</strong>
<strong>World Cup Qualifying</strong>
<strong>beIN SPORTS, Universo</strong>
<strong>Wednesday, 7pm</strong>
<strong>Sporting KC at Houston Dynamo</strong>
<strong>FSKC, FS Midwest</strong>
<strong>Wednesday, 7:30pm</strong>
<strong>Swope Park Rangers vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2</strong>
Thursday, 9:30am
USA U-17s vs. Colombia U-17s
U-17 World Cup
FS2, Universo