Starting XI - July 20, 2017

Starting XI: Rumble at Rio Tinto

Starting XI, presented by Ford, 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. Rumble at Rio Tinto

Unbeaten in nine straight games across all competitions, Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (8-4-8, 32 points) return to action Saturday against rivals Real Salt Lake (6-12-2, 20 points) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. The match will also be joined live in progress on FOX Sports Kansas City after Kansas City Royals postgame. Listeners can follow the action live on ESPN 99.3 FM (English), La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish) and in progress on Sports Radio 810 WHB following the Royals game. The Final Whistle postgame show will air at 11 p.m. CT on 810 WHB

In the first showdown between the clubs on April 29, Sporting KC earned a 3-0 home win behind goals from Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer and Gerso to snap a seven-game winless run in the regular season series. However, RSL has rattled off two eye-opening road victories on the trot, defeating LA Galaxy 6-2 and the Portland Timbers 4-1.

2. Onto the Semis

The U.S. Men’s National Team defeated El Salvador 2-0 on Wednesday to book a spot in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals. Both goals came in the final moments of the first half as Omar Gonzalez headed the Americans ahead before Eric Lichaj bagged his first international goal to the delight of more than 31,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were unused substitutes on Wednesday and will now travel with the U.S. MNT to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where it will face Costa Rica in Saturday’s Gold Cup semifinals at 9 p.m. CT on FS1, UniMas and UDN.

3. Double the Fun

All Sporting Kansas City supporters are welcome to attend the official #RSLvSKC watch party on Saturday at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). The match between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake will kick off at 9 p.m. CT. No Other Pub's matchday specials will begin at 8:30 p.m., including $5 Boulevard drafts as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, wings, cheese curds and more.

Saturday’s watch party will also feature the U.S. Men’s National Team facing Costa Rica in the semifinals of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are available for selection as the U.S. and Costa Rica kick off in at the same as Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake.

4. Red-hot Rangers end Roadie

The third-place Swope Park Rangers (11-4-2, 35 points) will put a pair of club records on the line tonight when the team travels to face seventh-place Seattle Sounders FC 2 (7-9-2, 23 points) to conclude a three-game Pacific Northwest road trip. Winners of six straight USL matches and unbeaten in nine consecutive games since the start of June, the Rangers will now visit Starfire Stadium for a 9:30 p.m. CT kickoff in Tukwila, Washington. The Western Conference matchup will stream live on SportingKC.com with additional live stats and updates on the USLSoccer.com MatchCenter.

5. All-Star Duo

Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer and defender Graham Zusi were named to the MLS All-Star Gameday Roster on Tuesday. The duo will join a 24-man squad as Major League Soccer’s best players square off with Spanish giant Real Madrid in the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. The summer showcase at Soldier Field in Chicago will kick off on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m. CT on FS1 and UniMas.

The MLS All-Star Gameday Roster consists of the All-Star Fan XI, announced on July 7, as well as two Commissioner’s Picks and 11 additional players selected by All-Star head coach Veljko Paunovic of the Chicago Fire. Zusi was one of three defenders voted to the Fan XI, while Dwyer joined FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta as one of MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s two selections. The full roster is a mix of 16 All-Star veterans as well as eight All-Star newcomers, representing 13 MLS clubs and hailing from 13 different countries, the most diverse group in All-Star history. Additionally, 20 of the 24 players named to the roster have represented their countries at the senior national team level.

6. Get ‘Em While They’re Hot

Single-game tickets are now on sale at SeatGeek.com for Sporting Kansas City’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the San Jose Earthquakes. Kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park is set for Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. CT. The semifinal showdown is included in Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Member packages as Game C, and PDF parking passes for the match will be emailed to all STMs prior to matchday.

Should Sporting KC defeat San Jose, the club will also host the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 20. In the other semifinal pairing, either Miami FC (NASL) or FC Cincinnati (USL) will host the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 9. Sporting KC is seeking the club’s fourth U.S. Open Cup championship, having previously hoisted the title in 2004, 2012 and 2015. None of the other four teams remaining in the 2017 field have won the Open Cup.

7. Hardcourt Kings

Sporting Kansas City will host the next King of the Court futsal tournament on Saturday at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas (2501 Minnesota Ave.). The interactive event features 4-v-4 matches for players ages 8 and up as well as a block party complete with music, yard games, skills challenges, bounce houses and Sporting KC player appearances and autograph sessions. Tournament registration is free for all teams at SportingKC.com/kingofthecourt.

8. Saucy Selections

Sporting KC fans can cast their votes for the Klement’s Sporting Sausage creation that will be sold in Children’s Mercy Park from Aug. 6 through the end of the season. Each entry will receive a Klement’s coupon in the mail prior to the contest’s conclusion. A grand prize will include a year supply of Klement’s products, a $50 Price Chopper gift card, two match tickets to a Sporting Kansas City match, a team-signed soccer ball and the opportunity to watch warm-ups from the field level at Children’s Mercy Park. Visit SportingKC.com/Klements for more information and to vote.

9. Gold Cup Double-dip

The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup continues tonight with a quarterfinal doubleheader at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Jamaica and Canada will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT before Mexico faces Honduras at 9:30 p.m. CT, with both battles televised live on FS1. Tonight’s winners will meet in Sunday’s semifinal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

10. Midweek Madness

Wednesday’s resumption of the MLS regular season delivered several jaw-dropping results across the country. The New York Red Bulls continued their uptick with a 5-1 thrashing of the San Jose Earthquakes, New York City FC and Toronto FC played to a thrilling 2-2 draw in a matchup of elite Eastern Conference sides, Real Salt Lake hammered the nine-man Portland Timbers 4-1 at Providence Park, and Seattle Sounders FC became the first team in MLS history to reverse a three-goal deficit by winning 4-3 at the expense of sorry D.C. United. MLSsoccer.com’s Greg Seltzer offers up a comprehensive yet concise recap of the action.

11. Neymar to PSG?

Brazilian icon Neymar is at the center of a saga that has dominated the 2017 summer transfer window. The 25-year-old is reportedly considering a move from FC Barcelona to Paris-St. Germain, where he would join fellow countrymen Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Lucas Moura and Marquinhos. Conflicting sources appear split on whether Neymar will continue his stay in Barcelona with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez or pursue a new journey as the unquestioned star in Paris. A report in Brazil on Tuesday added to uncertainty over Neymar's future at Barcelona, after Esporte Interativo claimed he has accepted an offer from PSG and will move for a world-record transfer fee of €222 million (approximately $258 million). Further developments are expected in the coming days.

Games to Watch (July 21-24)

DATE/TIME (CT) GAME COMPETITION CHANNEL
Friday, 6pm Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United FC MLS ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Saturday, 3pm Minnesota United FC vs. New York Red Bulls MLS ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Saturday, 5pm Barcelona vs. Juventus Club Friendly ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Saturday, 9pm USA (Besler, Zusi) vs. Costa Rica CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals FS1, UniMas, UDN
Saturday, 9pm Sporting KC at Real Salt Lake MLS FSKC Plus, FS Midwest Plus, FSKC (joined in progress)
Sunday, 4pm Manchester United vs. Real Madrid Club Friendly ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sunday, 5:30pm Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. New York Red Bulls MLS FS1, FOX Deportes
Sunday, 8pm Mexico/Honduras vs. Canada/Jamaica CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals FS1, UniMas, UDN
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