Preview: Sporting KC resumes preseason action with two 75-minute matches against Phoenix Rising FC on Thursday

Sporting Kansas City vs. Phoenix Rising FC
2019 Preseason presented by Children's Mercy
Thursday, Feb. 7 | 7 p.m. CT
Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex | Scottsdale, Arizona
Updates | @SKCmatchday on Twitter

With a brief return to the heartland in the books, Sporting Kansas City has returned to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the second leg of the club’s 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy.

The next preparatory step ahead of a marquee Concacaf Champions League showdown with Deportivo Toluca FC is Thursday’s friendly against Phoenix Rising FC, slated for a 7 p.m. CT kickoff at Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in Tempe. Sporting and Phoenix will play two 75-minute scrimmages over the course of the evening with live updates available on Twitter at @SKCmatchday.

Led by 11th-year manager Peter Vermes, Sporting cruised to three exhibition wins during the first stage of preseason training last month. The club outscored its opponents—Sporting Arizona FC and two trialist squads from FC Tucson and Rising FC—by a combined 20-0 scoreline with 13 different players finding the back of the net and four goalkeepers piecing together a 330-minute shutout streak.

Former New England Revolution duo Krisztian Nemeth and Kelyn Rowe, the latter of whom enters his first campaign with Sporting, lead the team with three preseason goals apiece, while forward Daniel Salloi and defender Graham Zusi have tallied a team-best two assists.

Vermes gave playing time to 37 different players throughout January, but the preseason squad has been trimmed to 30 this time around. That group includes 25 of the 26 players under MLS contract as well as 17-year-old Academy standout Mo Abualnadi and Swope Park Rangers quartet Justin Bilyeu, Felipe Hernandez, Mark Segbers and Ethan Vanacore-Decker.

Abdul Rwatubyaye, a 22-year-old Rwandan international who signed for Sporting KC yesterday, will be added to the roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 visa. He is expected to join the club in the coming weeks.

Abualnadi is one of five current Academy players who have trained with the first team this preseason. The central defender, who turns 18 on Friday, represented the Jordan U-19 Men’s National Team last week in a pair of friendly wins over Qatar’s Aspire Academy in Amman, Jordan.

Joining Abualnadi among Sporting’s sizeable Academy contingent are six professional Academy products, namely Hernandez, Salloi, Gianluca Busio, Tyler Freeman, Jaylin Lindsey and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal. Academy products combined for six goals and four assists during Sporting’s first stint in Arizona this winter.

The majority of players logged 135 minutes of action last month, clocking 30, 45 and 60 minutes, respectively, in three tune-ups. Thursday will see most of the squad take the next incremental step, playing 75 minutes as Vermes aims to get his side fully fit ahead of their Champions League curtain raiser on Feb. 21 at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting defeated a team of Rising FC trialists 7-0 on Jan. 23, but the challenge figures to be stiffer on Thursday as Phoenix fields under-contract players from its proper USL Championship roster. Rising FC claimed the Western Conference title last season, notably ousting the Swope Park Rangers in the conference semifinals, before suffering a 1-0 loss at Louisville City in the 2018 USL Cup Final. Two former Sporting KC defenders—Amadou Dia and James Musa—are among Phoenix’s returnees from a year ago.

Tickets for the Concacaf Champions League first leg between Sporting KC and Toluca at Children’s Mercy Park, set for 7 p.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 21, are now available at

Sporting KC 2019 Preseason Schedule & Results

Friday, Jan. 18 Sporting Arizona FC W 4-0 Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Phoenix Rising FC Trialists W 7-0 Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)
Wednesday, Jan. 30 FC Tucson Trialists W 9-0 Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)
Thursday, Feb. 7 Phoenix Rising FC
(two 75-minute matches)
7pm Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex (Scottsdale)
Wednesday, Feb. 13 Houston Dynamo 1 * 5pm Kino Sports Complex (Tucson)
Wednesday, Feb. 13 Houston Dynamo 2 * 5pm Kino Sports Complex (Tucson)

* Matches to be played concurrently

Sporting KC 2019 Preseason Roster (as of Feb. 6)

1 Adrian Zendejas Goalkeeper 23
2 Botond Barath Defender 26
4 Andreu Fontas Defender 29
5 Matt Besler Defender 31
6 Ilie Sanchez Midfielder 28
7 Johnny Russell Forward 28
8 Graham Zusi Defender 32
9 Krisztian Nemeth Forward 30
10 Yohan Croizet Midfielder 26
11 Kelyn Rowe Midfielder 27
12 Gerso Fernandes Forward 27
13 Gianluca Busio Midfielder 16
15 Seth Sinovic Defender 32
16 Graham Smith Defender 23
17 Roger Espinoza Midfielder 32
18 Eric Dick Goalkeeper 24
19 Erik Hurtado Forward 28
20 Daniel Salloi Forward 22
21 Felipe Gutierrez Midfielder 28
22 Rodney Wallace Defender 30
23 Tyler Freeman Forward 16
26 Jaylin Lindsey Defender 18
29 Tim Melia Goalkeeper 32
72 Justin Bilyeu * Defender 24
75 Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal Midfielder 20
85 Felipe Hernandez * Midfielder 20
91 Ethan Vanacore-Decker * Forward 24
94 Jimmy Medranda Defender 24
  Mo Abualnadi ^ Defender 17
  Mark Segbers * Defender 22

* Swope Park Rangers
^ Sporting KC Academy