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. Dallas Eclipsed
Sporting Kansas City used goals from Diego Rubio and Gerso to defeat FC Dallas 2-0 on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, staying tied atop the Western Conference in a celebration of the 100th straight MLS sellout at Children’s Mercy Park. The comprehensive win included a historic performance from Graham Zusi, who tallied two assists and contributed valuably on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Rubio continued to thrive in his center forward role with a third goal since becoming a regular starter last month.
In addition to pushing their home unbeaten run to 22 regular season matches — now tied for the fourth-longest such streak in MLS history — Sporting KC collected a league-best 10th shutout as goalkeeper Tim Melia dropped his goals against average to a league-low 0.76.
2. Duel with the Dynamo
Sporting KC (10-5-10, 40 points) is level with Seattle Sounders FC atop the Western Conference standings ahead of this Saturday's trip to the third-place Houston Dynamo (10-8-7, 37 points) at BBVA Compass Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT, with three hours of live coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. Local radio calls will air on ESPN 99.3 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), while the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app will provide live updates. Sports Radio 810 WHB will broadcast The Final Whistle postgame show immediately after the game.
All supporters are welcome to attend the official watch party for Saturday's match at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). Starting at 7:30 p.m. CT, No Other Pub will offer $6 Till Vodka cocktails as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers.
3. A Hundred Memories and More
To commemorate Sporting KC’s 100th consecutive MLS sellout at Children’s Mercy Park, SportingKC.com rolled out a wealth of 100th Sellout content, reliving the streak’s greatest goals, saves and comebacks in addition to gathering 100 memories from 100 different fans and publishing a new episode of Sporting Rewind that focuses in-depth on three dedicated supporters of the club.
4. Cream of the Crop
Sporting KC’s 2-0 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday saw Diego Rubio and Gerso find the back of the net, but it was a pair of U.S. internationals who landed MLS Team of the Week honors for their comprehensive displays in a shutout effort. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were named among MLSsoccer.com’s best performers in Week 24 after leading their team to three points in the 100th straight MLS sellout at Children’s Mercy Park.
5. Double Delight
Diego Rubio and Gerso scored superb goals on Saturday to stake their bids for MLS Goal of the Week, with voting open to fans at SportingKC.com. Rubio’s delightful volley off a Graham Zusi corner kick gave his side the lead just before halftime, while Gerso’s majestic left-footed strike sealed the victory in the 92nd minute. Click here to cast your MLS Goal of the Week vote.
6. Debut for Didic?
Sporting KC defender Amer Didc was named to the Canada Men’s National Team for the first time on Saturday ahead of an international friendly against Jamaica on Sept. 2 at BMO Field in Toronto. Didic previously made his debut for the Canada U-23s in March, anchoring the defense in shutout victories over Uzbekistan and Qatar at a tournament in Doha, Qatar. The U-23 trip was his first Canadian national team selection at any age level.
Didic signed an MLS contract with Sporting KC on May 31 after starring for USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers, where he logged 32 appearances during his first professional season in 2016. The 6-foot-4 defender earned All-League First Team honors as a Defender of the Year finalist and ledSPR to a Western Conference championship last fall.
7. Rangers Roar Back
Second-half substitutes Nansel Selbol and Kharlton Belmar scored goals Friday night as the Swpoe Park Rangers (12-5-5, 41 points) rallied for a 2-2 draw against the first-place Real Monarchs in a marquee matchup between Western Conference contenders at Children’s Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village.
Currently occupying third place in the West, the Rangers will now embark on a two-game road trip this week to conclude the month of August. First up is a trip to Sacramento Republic FC (10-7-4, 34 points) on Wednesday, with kickoff slated for 8 p.m. CT at Papa Murphy's Park. SPR will then face Reno 1868 FC (11-5-6, 39 points) at 9:30 p.m. CT Saturday at Greater Nevada Field. Both matches will stream live on SportingKC.com.
8. Busio Shines Bright
Sporting KC Academy forward Gianluca Busio led the United States U-15 Boys’ National Team to a second-place finish at the CONCACAF U-15 Championship last week in Bradenton, Florida.
The 15-year-old Busio tallied four goals across three group stage victories before scoring in Thursday’s 3-0 semifinal win over Panama, helping the United States advance to Saturday’s championship against archrival Mexico. Busio bagged a team-leading five goals in a tournament that saw the U.S. outscore opponents 15-1 before falling 2-0 to Mexico in the final.
9. Raise the Roof
The 2017 SKC Invitational has raised more than $530,000 for The Victory Project in its mission to help children battling cancer. Held Friday night at the historic Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City, the SKC Invitational Tee-Off Dinner and Auction featured silent and live auctions as well as appearances from Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes and players Ilie and Seth Sinovic.
Remarkable contributions from more than 600 guests in attendance will assist The Victory Project in primary endeavors such as Sporting Wishes, a program that identifies children who receive a secondary cancer diagnosis or relapse and grants them a special wish.
10. Bring Home the Cup
All remaining tickets for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final between Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls are on sale to the general public at SeatGeek.com. Serving as U.S. Soccer's National Championship, the Open Cup Final is slated for 8 p.m. CT on Sept. 20 at world-class Children's Mercy Park. The highly anticipated showdown will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
Sporting KC is a three-time Open Cup champion — having lifted the trophy in 2004, 2012 and 2015 — while the Red Bulls have never won the competition and will be making their first final appearance since 2003. Next month’s championship match will serve as the first Open Cup meeting between the MLS charter members.
11. Experience KC
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.
Games to Watch (Aug. 22-23)
|Tuesday, 1:45pm||Nice vs. Napoli||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wednesday, 1:45pm||Liverpool vs. Hoffenheim||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wednesday, 10pm||Swope Park Rangers at Sacramento Republic FC||USL||SportingKC.com|