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. Is 2017 the start of SKC 2.0?
A younger, faster and hungrier group heads to Arizona today for the start of preseason, according to Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes. Sam McDowell of the KC Star notes that four of the most high-profile offseason signings – Gerso Fernandes, Ilie Sanchez, Latif Blessing and Igor Juliao – have an average age of 23.3. Watch Friday’s full press conference here.
2. Sporting KC heads to Tucson for first leg of 2017 preseason
On Monday morning, the Sporting KC squad convened at KCI to embark on the first leg of the 2017 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. The day prior, players arrived at Swope Soccer Village for entrance physicals, while Tim Melia, Matt Besler, Colton Storm, Roger Espinoza and Dom Dwyer all spoke with the media. For a behind-the-scenes look at entrance physicals, check out Olivia Brestal’s photo gallery.
3. Dwyer excited about naturalization, possible USMNT future
“This country has given me a lot. If I have the opportunity to give something back, I would jump at it." February 14 marks five years to the day since Dom Dwyer received his permanent resident status in the U.S., meaning that he will finally be eligible for citizenship. In an interview with ESPN FC’s Doug McIntyre, Dwyer touches on his citizenship application and Benny Feilhaber’s inclusion in the National Team under new head coach Bruce Arena. The 26-year-old also joined ESPN’s Boot Room to discuss the upcoming MLS season.
4. Zusi feeling comfortable at right back in USMNT camp
While Sporting KC and U.S. fans alike are familiar with seeing Graham Zusi hugging the touchline as a winger, his versatility makes him a valuable asset for both club and country. After appearing at right back on the rare occasion for Sporting KC in 2016, USMNT head coach Bruce Arena sees a long-term future for Zusi along the backline, Paul Tenorio writes on FourFourTwo.com. MLSSoccer.com’s Josie Becker notes that Zusi is relishing the challenge of adjusting to a defense-first mentality.
5. Colton Storm and David Greczek selected by Sporting KC in MLS SuperDraft
Sporting KC used their two picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft to select defender Colton Storm out of the University of North Carolina and goalkeeper David Greczek out of Rutgers University. Storm told the KC Star’s Sam McDowell that he loved everything about the club, while manager Peter Vermes commented on Storm’s strong mentality. For a full transcript of Storm’s and Vermes’ quotes, click here.
6. Rangers sign former SKC Academy defender Joe Amico
The Swope Park Rangers continued to add to their roster ahead of the 2017 season with the addition of former Sporting KC Academy defender Joe Amico last Wednesday. The signing brings the roster total up to 13, while there are now five SKC Academy products on the squad. Chad Smith from The Blue Testament takes a deeper look into the signing of Amico and what it means for the SPR roster.
7. Away ticket requests open for season opener
Starting today, fans looking to attend Sporting KC’s season opener against D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday, March 4 can attain tickets – courtesy of the club – here. The 2017 season marks the seventh straight year that Sporting KC has provided tickets for fans willing to make the trip to support the team on the road.
8. SeatGeek launches Pano 3D Venue of Children’s Mercy Park
On January 19, Sporting KC’s official ticketing partner SeatGeek launched its Pano 3D Venue of Children’s Mercy Park that provides fans with virtual, crystal-clear views of every seating section inside the stadium. Half season packs are currently available to fans through SeatGeek here.
9. McCarty traded to Chicago in blockbuster move
In a move that caught most of the league off-guard, the New York Red Bulls traded captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire in exchange for $400,000 in General Allocation Money. MLSSoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal reports that it’s the second-highest amount of cash ever exchanged in a MLS trade, and coincides nicely with the league’s recent announcement that allocation money figures will be publicly disclosed in trades. Graham Parker at FourFourTwo.com delves into the cultural significance of the trade for the Red Bulls and the Fire.
10. Pulisic extends contract with Borussia Dortmund
Rising USMNT star Christian Pulisic extended his contract with Borussia Dortmund on Monday. The 18-year-old has made 19 appearances for Dortmund this season, tallying two goals and five assists for the Bundesliga giants. Pulisic scored his first international goal at Children’s Mercy Park last May, and has recorded three goals and two assists for the USMNT to date. Nate Scott from FOX Sports writes that the contract extension is good news for American soccer.
11. Chelsea extends lead at the Premier League summit
In a weekend where only two of the top six took maximum points, Chelsea were able to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to eight points following a 2-0 victory over Hull City on Sunday. Joe Prince-Wright of NBC Sports analyzes each big call over the weekend, while ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden takes a closer look at the title race.
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tues., Jan. 24, 1pm||Morocco vs. Ivory Coast||African Cup of Nations||beIN Sports|
|Wed., Jan. 25, 12:15pm||Eibar vs. Atletico Madrid||Copa del Rey||beIN Sports en Espanol|
|Wed., Jan. 25, 1pm||Egypt vs. Ghana||African Cup of Nations||beIN Sports Connect|
|Wed., Jan. 25, 1:45pm||Juventus vs. AC Milan||Coppa Italia||GOL TV|
|Wed., Jan. 25, 2pm||Liverpool vs. Southampton||EFL Cup||beIN Sports|
|Wed., Jan. 25, 2:15pm||Celta Vigo vs. Real Madrid||Copa del Rey||beIN Sports en Espanol|
|Thur., Jan. 26, 1:45pm||Hull City vs. Manchester United||EFL Cup||beIN Sports|
|Thur., Jan. 26, 2:15pm||Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad||Copa del Rey||beIN Sports en Espanol|