Starting XI, presented by StorageMart, 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. Halfway There
Sporting secured an emphatic 3-0 victory over Mexican club Deportivo Toluca FC on Thursday night in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sanchez provided the goals on a crisp winter evening at Children’s Mercy Park as Sporting became the second American team since the dawn of the Champions League in 1962 to defeat a Mexican opponent by three goals.
2. Finish the Job
With Thursday’s stunning result in the books, Sporting and Toluca will meet again in the decisive Round of 16 second leg on Thursday at Estadio Nemesio Diez in Toluca, Mexico. Manager Peter Vermes’ men can advance to the Champions League quarterfinals with a win, a draw or a loss by two or fewer goals.
Thursday's battle in Toluca—played at a lung-busting altitude of 8,750 feet—will kick off at 9 p.m. CT on YahooSports.com and Univision Deportes. The series winner will progress to the Champions League quarterfinals to face the victor between Toronto FC and Independiente of Panama, with quarterfinal fixtures set for March 5-7 and March 12-14.
3. Fernandes Flying
Gerso Fernandes played a leading role on Thursday as Sporting thrashed Toluca 3-0 in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. The diminutive winger set up Krisztian Nemeth's opening goal in the 35th minute, bagged a goal of his own in the 52nd and caused Toluca all sorts of defensive issues throughout the night. Concacaf took notice on Friday, naming Fernandes to its Concacaf Champions League Team of the Week.
4. Live That Fantasy
MLS Fantasy is back for 2019, giving you more reason to get excited for the 2019 season. Sign up now to compete against your friends and family, as you will have two chances to earn bragging rights again in 2019. The MLS season will be split into two, with the Gold Cup acting as a natural break between the Spring and Fall seasons.
- Spring season: March 2-June 8
- Fall season: June 22-Oct. 6
Sound enticing? To set up a team, head to the new-look site at fantasy.mlssoccer.com and hit the "Play Now" button to get started.
5. Snag a Seat
Single-game tickets to Sporting's first eight MLS home matches of 2019 — beginning with Fan Appreciation Day against the Philadelphia Union on March 10 and ending with a marquee matchup versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on May 29 — are now on sale via SeatGeek.com.
In addition, limited quantities of full-season ticket packages remain available for supporters looking to catch every moment of the action at world-class Children’s Mercy Park. Select home dates will also feature Family Four Packs presented by Coca-Cola — consisting of four match tickets, four hot dogs, four Coca-Cola products and four bags of chips — including a game against the Montreal Impact on March 30.
6. Update the App
In collaboration with fan engagement software and analytics company FanThreeSixty, Sporting has announced an all-new official team app ahead of the 2019 season. The revamped app, available for download today, gives fans a more personalized experience with the MLS club.
With enhanced design and personalization in mind, the new Sporting app gives each fan a custom experience with in-venue offers, in-app promotions, and news and content tailored to the individual. The elevated mobile platform gives fans faster access to club information, scores and highlight videos. Notifications like live scores and stats, breaking news and ticket specials are delivered right to the fans’ homescreen, ensuring they never miss a moment on or off the field.
7. Know the Foe
The United States U-20 Men's National Team learned its World Cup assignments on Sunday as FIFA held the official draw for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. Tab Ramos’ men will face Ukraine, Nigeria and Qatar in Group D from May 24-30, with the competition running May 23 to June 15. Sporting KC Academy product Jaylin Lindsey is among the players hoping to represent the U.S. at the tournament this spring.
8. Wild Winter
Major League Soccer's offseason may have flown by, but it wasn't short on compelling storylines. Before we knew it, #MLSisBack already. This winter has been complete with transfer sagas, whirlwind of roster building and much more. MLSsoccer.com gets you caught up on what you might have missed over the last few months.
9. Amazing Almiron
Newcastle United supporters may be falling in love with Miguel Almiron even faster than Atlanta United FC fans did. The record-breaking Paraguayan playmaker stole the show in his first start for the Magpies on Saturday, drawing a game-changing early red card and orchestrating the Newcastle attack from the left side of midfield in a 2-0 Premier League win over Huddersfield Town.
10. Snowed Out
Sunday’s scrimmage between the Swope Park Rangers and Creighton University at Swope Soccer Village was cancelled due to inclement winter weather in Omaha, Nebraska. The Rangers were scheduled to face the Omaha-based NCAA program at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday, but heavy snowfall prevented Creighton from making the trip.
Led by head coach Paulo Nagamura, SPR will close out their 2019 preseason this Saturday, hosting USL League Two outfit Texas United FC at 2 p.m. CT. Admission is free and open to the public.
11. Binge Watchers
The 2019 MLS regular season starts on Saturday, and you won't want to miss a minute of the action. In addition to matches on national and local TV broadcasts, you can watch out-of-market matches via cable, satellite and streaming. Here is how to watch every Sporting match and all out-of-market games in 2019.
Matches to Watch (Feb. 25-28, 2019)
|Today, 1:30pm||RB Leipzig vs. Hoffenheim||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Tuesday, 2pm||Newcastle vs. Burnley||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Tuesday, 2pm||PSG vs. Dijon||Coupe de France||beIN SPORTS|
|Tuesday, 7pm||Toronto FC vs. Independiente||Concacaf Champions League||YahooSports.com|
|Tuesday, 7pm||Houston Dynamo vs. Guastatoya||Concacaf Champions League||YahooSports.com|
|Wednesday, 2pm||Chelsea vs. Tottenham||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, 2pm||Real Madrid vs. Barcelona||Spanish Copa del Rey||beIN SPORTS|
|Wednesday, 6pm||U.S. WNT vs. Japan||SheBelieves Cup||FS1|
|Wednesday, 7pm||New York Red Bulls vs. Atletico Pantoja||Concacaf Champions League||YahooSports.com|
|Thursday, 7pm||Atlanta United FC vs. Herediano||Concacaf Champions League||YahooSports.com, UDN|
|Thursday, 9pm||Sporting at Toluca||Concacaf Champions League||YahooSports.com, UDN|