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. Road to Recovery
Two of Sporting KC’s most prominent players are entering preseason in recovery mode after going under the knife in the offseason. Matt Besler and Dom Dwyer each had minor operations to repair ankle issues, and are making steady progress in their rehab. The KC Star’s Sam McDowell spoke with Dwyer about the timeline for his return, while Steve Brisendine provided an update on Besler’s condition on MLSSoccer.com.
2. Chance Taken
A day after he signed with the Portland Timbers, longtime Sporting KC defender Chance Myers penned a sincere thank-you letter to SKC Nation via Instagram on Tuesday. The MLS veteran spent nine seasons in Kansas City and ranks first all-time among KC defenders with 19 assists. Myers notably hoisted the 2013 MLS Cup on his 26th birthday, also winning U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012 and 2015. Graham Zusi, his teammate of eight years, posted an equally heartfelt Instagram photo Wednesday to give Myers a proper sendoff.
3. Benny’s Back
It’s been three long years, but Benny Feilhaber is back where he belongs – with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He’s joined by Sporting KC teammate and aspiring right back Graham Zusi, and the pair will aim to see the field in the USMNT’s first game of 2017, this Sunday against Serbia in San Diego at 3 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Caitlin Murray delves deeper into Zusi’s transition to right back on FOX Sports while Sam Stejskal from MLSSoccer.com singles out Feilhaber as the player to watch in Sunday’s showdown.
4. For Those About to Rock
Rejoice: the offseason is officially over! All 22 MLS clubs reported to camp this week, with the year’s first friendlies scheduled to kick off Friday and Saturday. Sporting KC is hard at work in Tucson, having completed the infamous beep test during their first day of the 2017 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. Kansas City-based soccer gurus Andy Edwards and Charles Gooch gave their quick-hitting preseason thoughts on the latest episode of the Talkin’ Touches podcast, while rookie draft pick Colton Storm took over the team’s Snapchat account (sportingkc) today in Arizona.
5. Ask Away
Sporting KC fans have a golden opportunity to interact with the club like never before. On Feb. 9, Manager Peter Vermes and President Jake Reid will participate in a Fan Forum at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Hosted by soccer analyst Andy Edwards, the unique event welcomes fans of all ages who RSVP at SportingKC.com/fanforum. Doors open at 6 p.m. CT and all topics are open for discussion: the goal is to create a candid, open-ended conversation as Vermes and Reid answer questions from supporters. The Fan Forum also features complimentary appetizers and Till Vodka drink specials, while No Other Pub will offer free gaming throughout the night.
6. Ticket Envy
Tomorrow’s a good day to be a STM. Starting at 10 a.m. CT on Friday, Sporting KC season ticket members will have first dibs on single-game tickets for all of the side’s 2017 regular-season games. After a five-day head start for our STMs, single-game tickets for the first 10 MLS games of the season will go on sale to the general public next Wednesday at 10 a.m. CT. Tickets for both sales can be purchased through SeatGeek.
7. Black Saturday Sales
Remember that piece of merch you’ve been fawning over all year but was always a little out of your price range? The SportingStyle Warehouse Sale is just for you. Pop by the Pop-In store at Children’s Mercy Park this Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. to get incredible deals on t-shirts and youth sizes (as low as $9.97), scarves and beanies (as low as $11.97) and jackets (as low as $24.97).
8. Long Time No See
Once upon a time, Freddy Adu and Oguchi Onyewu were both household names in U.S. Soccer. Both have long since vanished from the spotlight, but now Adu and Onyewu are back training with MLS teams ahead of the 2017 campaign. Adu has joined Portland’s preseason camp, while Onyewu is with the Philadelphia Union. MLSsoccer.com’s armchair analyst Matt Doyle discussed Adu’s potential impact with the Timbers, while ESPN FC’s Doug McIntyre took a closer look at Onyewu’s arrival in Philly.
9. CCL Reshuffles
The CONCACAF Champions League announced major plans on Monday to restructure the tournament beginning in 2018. At the forefront, the group stage will be scrapped entirely. Instead, 16 participants will square off in a single-elimination knockout tournament between February and May, with matchups decided by aggregate goals over two legs. The champion will qualify for the ensuing FIFA Club World Cup. Click here for CONCACAF’s official announcement regarding the format change.
10. Guzan’s Homecoming
In the latest installment of American’s returning stateside, USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan signed with expansion side Atlanta United FC from Middlesbrough FC in the English Premier League. The 32-year-old, who was the 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for Chivas USA before spending the vast majority of his career in England with Aston Villa, has been a part of the USMNT since 2006 and SBISoccer.com’s Ryan Tolmich looks at Guzan’s future with the National Team after his MLS return.
11. Wembley Bound
The first English domestic cup final of the year will be contested between Manchester United and Southampton in the EFL Cup Final on Sunday, Feb. 26. The Saints were the surprise package, seeing off Liverpool with 1-0 victories in each leg of their semifinal, while Manchester United battled to a 3-2 aggregate victory over Hull City, despite losing Thursday’s second leg 2-1. On FOX Sports, Ryan Rosenblatt writes about Liverpool’s demise while Alex Dowd covers Hull City’s tribute to midfielder Ryan Mason who is recovering from a fractured skull.
GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Fri., Jan. 27, 1:30pm||Schalke vs. Eintracht Frankfurt||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Sat., Jan. 28, 9am||Chelsea vs. Brentford||English FA Cup||FS1|
|Sat., Jan. 28, 11am||Southampton vs. Arsenal||English FA Cup||FS1|
|Sat., Jan. 28, 1pm||Senegal vs. Cameroon||African Cup of Nations||beIN Sports|
|Sun., Jan. 29, 5am||Real Betis vs. Barcelona||Spanish La Liga||beIn Sports|
|Sun., Jan. 29, 10am||Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic||English FA Cup||FS1|
|Sun., Jan. 29, 1:45pm||Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad||Spanish La Liga||beIN Sports|
|Sun., Jan. 29, 3pm||USA (Feilhaber, Zusi) vs. Serbia||Friendly||ESPN2, UniMas|