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. Timbers Trumped
Sporting Kansas City earned a statement win on Saturday night, shutting down the high-powered Portland Timbers and using a Dom Dwyer goal to triumph 1-0 at sold-out Providence Park. Manager Peter Vermes’ men remained unbeaten and jumped to second place in the Western Conference behind another stifling defensive performance — one that extends the club’s historic road shutout streak to four games.
Vermes, Dwyer and captain Matt Besler expressed tempered confidence in their postgame remarks, while MLSsoccer.com analyst Matthew Doyle lauded Sporting KC’s impressive start to the season — particularly singling out center back Ike Opara as one of 2017’s best MLS players so far.
2. Battle of the Unbeatens
Two unbeaten teams remain in Major League Soccer, and they just so happen to be squaring off this Saturday. Second-place Sporting KC (3-0-3, 12 points) hits the road to face FC Dallas (3-0-2, 11 points) in a high-profile Western Conference matchup at Toyota Stadium, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
The sides have already met once in 2017, having battled to a scoreless draw on March 11 at Children’s Mercy Park, but the stakes have been raised in Week 8. Sporting KC hasn’t allowed a road goal since last October, and FC Dallas hasn’t lost at home since last September. Needless to say, the match is finely poised and serves as the most enticing fixture on the Week 8 schedule.
3. Still Perfect
The Swope Park Rangers racked up their third straight win to start the 2017 USL campaign on Saturday, knocking off Sacramento Republic FC 1-0 on Saturday to become the league’s only club with a perfect record. Mark Anthony Gonzalez scored the game-winner at Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Swope Soccer Village as SPR extended their regular season winning run to seven matches, the second longest such streak in USL history.
Next up is the Rangers’ first road test of the year at Phoenix Rising FC, whose roster includes African soccer legend Didier Drogba and former MLS All-Star Omar Bravo. The game will kick off at 9 p.m. CT Sunday at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, streaming live on SportingKC.com.
4. Home Again
After competing at the prestigious Generation adidas Cup from April 7-15, the Sporting KC Academy continues its 2016-17 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign on Saturday with a doubleheader against the Colorado Rush at Swope Soccer Village. The U-18s kick off at 10 a.m. CT before the U-16s take the field at 12:30 p.m. Both matches are free and open to the public. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates throughout the season.
5. Lindsey Locked In
Sporting KC Academy defender Jaylin Lindsey has linked up with the United States U-17 Men’s National Team for the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, which will run from April 21-May 7 in Panama. The 17-year-old Lindsey has joined a 20-player roster for a tournament that also serves as the qualifying competition for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, set for Oct. 6-28 in India. The U.S. was drawn into Group C and will kick off pool play Sunday against Jamaica at 12:30 p.m. CT on CONCACAF’s Facebook Live page. The Americans will then round out the group stage with games against Mexico (April 26) and El Salvador (April 29).
6. This Just Got Real
It’s official: reigning UEFA Champions League winner Real Madrid will face the best of MLS in the 2017 MLS All-Star Game on Aug. 2, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Led by world-class players Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid will face an MLS All-Star side that boasts an 8-4-1 all-time record against some of the world’s most decorated clubs. The best way to secure a ticket to the match is to contact the Chicago Fire at 888-MLS-Fire or firstname.lastname@example.org for an exclusive presale offering. Tickets will go on-sale to the public on Thursday, May 4 at 10 a.m. CT via Ticketmaster.com.
7. Around the League
David Villa breaks Twitter with a 50-yard wonder goal; Orlando, San Jose and Montreal leave it late; Bastian Schweinsteiger and Chicago stay hot; and Real Salt Lake, Vancouver and the Red Bulls win rivalry matches. A whole lot happened in Week 7, so MLSsoccer.com’s Alicia Rodriguez gets us caught up on everything we might have missed.
8. On the AM
A new episode of the Sporting KC Show will air at 7:15 p.m. CT Tuesday on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Jillian Carroll will recap a wildly successful Saturday for Sporting KC and the Swope Park Rangers and preview this weekend's action, with Sporting KC facing fellow unbeaten FC Dallas and the Rangers going up against Didier Drogba and Phoenix Rising FC.
9. Good Samaritans
Sporting KC and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City are teaming up in 2017 to recognize Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, honoring students and teachers who make the Kansas City community a better place to live, work and play. Once a month, a Samaritan will be recognized on the pitch at Children's Mercy Park before a Sporting KC home game. The Samaritan and up to three guests will receive a behind the scenes VIP experience, four tickets to the game, a parking pass and a $50 gift card redeemable for Sporting KC merchandise. Supporters can nominate members of their community to be the next Blue KC Sporting Samaritan at SportingKC.com/bluekc.
10. Leg Two on Tap
The second legs of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals will unfold Tuesday and Wednesday, sending four teams to the celebrated competitions semifinal round next month. On Tuesday, Real Madrid returns home with a 2-1 aggregate lead against German powerhouse Bayern Munich, and Leicester City will look to overturn a 1-0 deficit at home against Atletico Madrid. The following afternoon, hosts Barcelona face an uphill battle having lost 3-0 to Juventus last week, while Christian Pulisic and a shaken Borussia Dortmund side will hope to come back from a 3-2 hole against AS Monaco in France. All four games will be broadcast live on FS1 or FS2, and full TV details can be found in the table below.
11. Legend to Leave Chelsea
Longtime Chelsea FC captain John Terry will leave the English Premier League club at the end of the season, the defender announced today. Terry has won four Premier League titles, one UEFA Champions League and eight domestic cups since debuting for the London side in 1998, having amassed 713 appearances in Chelsea blue. The heralded center back also landed 78 caps for England and played at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. According to ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle, an MLS source has indicated that none of the league’s teams have yet expressed interest in acquiring Terry.
Games to Watch (April 18-20)
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tuesday, 1:45pm||Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Tuesday, 1:45pm||Leicester City vs. Atletico Madrid||UEFA Champions League||FS2|
|Tuesday, 9pm||Tigres UANL vs. Pachuca||CONCACAF Champions League||Univision Deportes|
|Wednesday, 1:45pm||Barcelona vs. Juventus||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wednesday, 1:45pm||Monaco vs. Borussia Dortmund||UEFA Champions League||FS2|
|Thursday, 2pm||Manchester United vs. Anderlecht||UEFA Europa League||FS1|
|Thursday, 2pm||Schalke vs. Ajax||UEFA Europa League||FS2|