Starting XI - Aug. 14, 2017

Starting XI: A Century of Sellouts

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. Sunk in Seattle

Sporting Kansas City’s club-record 13-game unbeaten streak across all competitions was snapped in a 1-0 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday afternoon. Clint Dempsey headed home the match-winner in the 36th minute to send Sounders FC (10-7-7, 37 points) into a first-place tie atop the Western Conference standings with Sporting KC (9-5-10, 37 points). Saturday’s result put an end to Seattle’s six-game regular-season winless drought against Manager Peter Vermes’ men, who suffered their first loss since May 27.

A third game in seven days prompted Vermes to reshuffle his lineup, which featured seven changes from Wednesday’s grueling victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals that required 120 minutes plus penalty kicks. Saturday saw the MLS debut of Sporting KC midfielder James Musa, who finished the match leading all players in touches (84), passes (78) and successful passes (68) while also winning two duels and making two interceptions.

2. A Century of Sellouts

Tied for first place in the Western Conference, Manager Peter Vermes' men will now turn their attention to Saturday night's pivotal matchup with FC Dallas (9-5-8, 35 points) at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT, with three hours of live television coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. The contest will also be broadcast on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), and the Final Whistle Postgame Show will air immediately after the game on 810 WHB.

A limited number of tickets for Saturday's all-important showdown are available now at SeatGeek.com. The occasion will mark the 100th consecutive MLS sellout at world-class Children's Mercy Park dating back to April 2012, and the first 10,000 fans through the stadium gates will receive a commemorative 100th Sellout poster courtesy of match sponsor Price Chopper. Sporting KC is 9-0-6 at home in all competitions this year and currently boasts a 21-game home unbeaten streak in the regular season, the sixth longest in MLS history.

3. A Point for SPR

The Swope Park Rangers (12-5-4, 40 points) scrapped to a 1-1 draw with Orange County SC on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village. Kharlton Belmar fired SPR ahead after just four minutes with his team-leading seventh goal of the year, but the visitors drew level on 51 minutes through Zach Kobayashi to salvage a point from the fixture.

The third-place Rangers will remain home on Friday when they host Western Conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC (16-3-3, 51 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the match are available at SeatGeek.com or at the venue box office on matchday. Fans can also catch the live stream on SportingKC.com.

4. Who Awaits in the Final?

On Tuesday night, FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League will host the New York Red Bulls in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals, set for 7 p.m. CT at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati and streaming live on USSoccer.com. Tuesday's winner will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Sept. 20 at Children's Mercy Park.

FC Cincinnati is the first lower-league club to reach the Open Cup semifinals since 2011. The team has yet to concede a goal in five Open Cup matches this season, using four 1-0 wins and a penalty shootout victory to reach the penultimate round of U.S. Soccer's oldest competition. During their unlikely run to the semis, FC Cincinnati has knocked off MLS sides Columbus Crew SC and Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, are looking to make their first-ever Open Cup final appearance as one of Major League Soccer's charter members.

5. Busio the Boss

Sporting Kansas City Academy forward Gianluca Busio has taken the 2017 CONCACAF U-15 Championship by storm, scoring a brace in each of the United States' first two group stage matches at the tournament in Bradenton, Florida. Busio struck twice in the first half of Sunday's 2-0 win over the Canada U-15s before adding two more in a 6-0 thrashing of Trinidad and Tobago this morning. Busio is joined on the U.S. U-15 Boys' National Team roster by Sporting KC Academy teammate Mitch Eise. The U-15s will conclude group stage action Wednesday at 8 a.m. CT when they face Costa Rica. Thursday's semifinal matchups will then set up Saturday's championship match.

6. Experience the Thrill

Sporting Kansas City supporters are invited to experience Kanas City their way and enjoy a match at Children’s Mercy Park courtesy of AT&T. Click here and enter for a chance to win a VIP package through this limited-time sweepstakes. Winners will receive four tickets to a Sporting KC home match, watch pregame warmups from the field, embark on a tour of Children’s Mercy Park and receive $250 of merchandise credit to Sporting Style.

7. Samaritans Shine

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.

8. Get 'Em While You Can

Single-game tickets for all Sporting Kansas City regular season home matches in 2017 are on sale to the general public at SeatGeek.com, the club’s official ticketing provider that allows supporters to buy, share and sell tickets easier than ever before. Away ticket requests are also open for the following road matches: Houston Dynamo (Aug. 26), New York City FC (Sept. 6) and Columbus Crew SC (Sept. 10). Visit SportingKC.com/awaytickets for easy navigation, and call 888-4KC-GOAL for more ticket information. Sporting KC is currently in the midst of a 99-game home sellout streak in MLS dating back to April 2012.

9. Tight at the Top

By the time dust had settled on Saturday's MLS action, Sporting Kansas City found themselves level with two other teams at the top of the Western Conference standings. Seattle's win and Houston's 3-0 home victory over San Jose drew both victors level with Vermes' men, while fourth-place Dallas is only two points behind the pack but failed to capitalize in a 0-0 home draw against the Colorado Rapids. Elsewhere, Supporters' Shield leaders Toronto FC thrashed the Portland Timbers 4-1 and the LA Galaxy took yet another loss at StubHub Center with a 2-0 setback to David Villa and New York City FC. MLSsoccer.com analyst Matt Doyle shared his thoughts on Week 23, while David Gass, Stephen Keel and Arielle Castillo were back with another edition of ExtraTime Live to revisit the weekend's biggest moments.

10. Wild Week One

Week one of the 2017-18 English Premier League campaign didn't disappoint. Friday's curtain raiser saw Arsenal claim a thrilling comeback win over Leicester City, scoring twice in the final moments to secure a 4-3 result. Saturday's early kickoff was a 3-3 barnburner played between Liverpool and Watford, followed by a shocking upset of the defending champions as nine-man Chelsea fell 3-2 to Burnley on home soil. Fellow title contenders Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United cruised to shutout victories, while newcomers Huddersfield Town roared to a 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.

11. Ronaldo Sees Red

Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench on Sunday to score a goal in Real Madrid's 3-1 triumph over Barcelona in Sunday's first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Yet the Portuguese superstar would grab headlines for all the wrong reasons late in the match. Ronaldo was booked for removing his shirt during his goal celebration, then quickly received a second yellow after referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea ruled that he had dived in attempt to win a penalty. Ronaldo reacted by pushing the referee and this morning was issued a five-game suspension by the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

Games to Watch (Aug. 15-16)

DATE/TIME (CT) GAME COMPETITION CHANNEL
Tuesday, 1:45pm TSG Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool UEFA Champions League FS1
Tuesday, 7pm FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup USSoccer.com
Wednesday, 1:45pm Napoli vs. Nice UEFA Champions League FS1
Wednesday, 4pm Real Madrid vs. Barcelona Spanish Super Cup ESPN2
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