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. Texas Hold 'Em
Sporting Kansas City stifled FC Dallas on Saturday but were unable to muster a goal of their own, settling for a 0-0 draw in the 2017 home opener at Children’s Mercy Park. The result gave Sporting KC consecutive shutouts to start the season for the first time since 2012 and four straight clean sheets in the regular season dating back to last year. FC Dallas entered the contest as reigning Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup champions, but managed little going forward amidst freezing temperatures. Despite a second straight draw, Manager Peter Vermes was impressed with what he saw in many areas of the field.
2. Quakes Await
Next up on Sporting KC’s docket: the San Jose Earthquakes, who bring a perfect 2-0 record into Saturday’s matchup at Children’s Mercy Park. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live TV coverage beginning at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City. A limited number of tickets are still available on SeatGeek.com as Sporting KC looks to deliver the Earthquakes an 11th defeat in their last 12 visits to Kansas City.
3. Roger Reined In
With the March international window on the horizon, one Sporting Kansas City player has already been called to duty. Midfielder Roger Espinoza was named to Honduras’ 26-man roster on Monday ahead of Los Catrachos’ pivotal World Cup qualifying matches on March 24 against the United States and on March 28 against Costa Rica. Espinoza has helped Honduras reach each of the previous two World Cups in addition to representing his country at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
4. Don’t be a Stranger, Ranger
The Swope Park Rangers are celebrating the start of the 2017 USL campaign on Wednesday, hosting their Season Kickoff Party from 6-7:30 p.m. at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District. All fans are welcome for a night of games and photograph opportunities with the defending Western Conference champions, while guests 21 and older can enjoy a variety of happy hour drink specials. Click here to RSVP.
5. Oreos and Ice Cream for Free
If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with the Sporting KC Uphoria app, now would be a good time to do so. Uphoria users can redeem free Oreo cookies at any Price Chopper in the Kansas City area through midnight tonight. Supporters will also want to have their apps open this Saturday, as Price Chopper will be offering free cartons of Breyers ice cream. The Uphoria app is available to download on the App Store or Google Play, serving as fans’ ticket into Children’s Mercy Park in addition to bringing live stats, breaking news, MySKC Cam and more.
6. Sixteens stroll at Snowy Swope
Snowy Swope Soccer Village played host to a U.S. Soccer Development Academy doubleheader on Saturday, highlighted by the Sporting KC U-16s’ 4-2 win over Texans SC Houston. The U-16s and U-18s are in position to qualify for the Development Academy Playoffs with three months of the regular season still to play. Both teams return to Swope this Saturday to face Lonestar SC, with games set to begin at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively. All Sporting KC Academy matches are free and open to the public.
7. Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Fellow expansion teams Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC squared off Sunday, and the result was eye-opening to say the least. Atlanta spoiled Minnesota’s first home game in heavy snowfall with a resounding 6-1 victory that included a hat-trick from Josef Martinez. With an official temperature of 19 degrees, Sunday’s blowout edged the 2013 MLS Cup at Children’s Mercy Park (20 degrees) as the coldest game in league history. New York City FC enjoyed a runaway win of their own earlier in the day before Portland continued their perfect start at the expense of LA Galaxy, who are off to their worst start in 16 years.
8. Saturday Night Fever
A busy Saturday in MLS saw the Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes continue their strong starts Week 2 victories. The New York Red Bulls are alone atop the East after beating Colorado, but it was their goalkeeper Luis Robles who stole headlines by setting a new MLS iron man record with his 142nd consecutive league start. In another exciting fixture, Seattle Sounders FC rescued a last-gasp draw in Montreal.
9. Dallas as David
Just four days removed from their scoreless draw at Children’s Mercy Park, FC Dallas will host Mexican powerhouse Pachuca in the first leg of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. If FC Dallas wants to become the third MLS team to reach the CCL finals, it will almost certainly need a result in Wednesday’s first leg at Toyota Stadium. Vancouver Whitecaps FC is the other club aiming for CCL glory, as they get set for Tuesday’s daunting first leg at Tigres. As MLSsoccer.com’s Michael McColl writes, Vancouver is ready to prove doubters wrong.
10. Stream Big
MLS and Univision Deportes are striving for more social engagement with fans across the country, and Friday’s joint announcement will go a long way in accomplishing that. At least 22 MLS matches broadcast in Spanish on the Univision networks will now be live streamed in English in the United States via the Univision Deportes Facebook page. The first Univision match to be streamed live in English comes Saturday when Atlanta United hosts the Chicago Fire at 2 p.m. CT Saturday.
MLS will also produce 40 exclusive “Matchday Live” shows on Facebook on game days, featuring highlights and analysis from around the league.
11. Fleet Foxes
English Premier League title holders Leicester City have shown signs of life after parting ways with manager Claudio Ranieri last month, winning two straight EPL matches to move out of the relegation zone. Now the Foxes hope their fairytale can continue in the UEFA Champions League against Spanish side Sevilla. ESPNFC’s Kasey Keller, Paul Mariner and Steve Nicol debate Leicester’s chances of overturning a 2-1 deficit in Tuesday’s Round of 16 second leg. Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Manchester City have comfortable two-goal leads heading into this week’s decisive Round of 16 matches.
Games to Watch (March 14-16)
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tue., Mar. 14, 2:45pm||Leicester City vs. Sevilla||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Tue., Mar. 14, 2:45pm||Juventus vs. Porto||UEFA Champions League||FS2|
|Tue., Mar. 14, 9pm||Tigres vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC||CONCACAF Champions League||CONCACAF Facebook|
|Wed., Mar. 15, 2:45pm||Monaco vs. Manchester City||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wed., Mar. 15, 2:45pm||Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Leverkusen||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wed., Mar. 15, 7pm||FC Dallas vs. Pachuca||CONCACAF Champions League||UDN, CONCACAF Facebook|
|Thu., Mar. 16, 3pm||Manchester United vs. Rostov||UEFA Europa League||FS1|