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. Set the Table
A pivotal battle beckons tonight at Children’s Mercy Park when Sporting Kansas City hosts Panamanian side Independiente in the decisive second leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals. Tickets for the 7 p.m. CT showdown are included in Season Ticket Member packages and remain available at SeatGeek.com.
The must-win match will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while a Spanish-language telecast will air live on Univision Deportes. ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will carry the game locally over the radio, and the new Sporting KC App will provide additional in-game updates and exclusive offers to users.
2. Win or Go Home
In order to reach the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals for the first time, Sporting must overcome a 2-1 deficit against an Independiente outfit that prevailed last Wednesday in La Chorrera, Panama. Manager Peter Vermes’ men can win the series with a 1-0 triumph or a multi-goal victory, having claimed an important away goal through Ilie Sanchez in the first leg at Estadio Agustin Sanchez.
Tournament debutants Independiente, meanwhile, would advance with a win, a draw or a one-goal loss in which the visitors score at least twice (3-2, 4-3, etc.). The latter scenario would see Les Abejitas progress on the away goals tiebreaker. Should Sporting win by a 2-1 scoreline, the series will be decided by a penalty kick shootout and no extra time will be played.
- Sporting wins the series with: a 1-0 victory or a win by multiple goals.
- Independiente wins the series with: a win, a draw or a one-goal loss in which they score at least twice (2-3, 3-4, etc.)
- The series goes straight to penalty kicks with: a 2-1 win for Sporting
3. Gedi Up
Sporting KC announced Monday that the club has acquired 22-year-old holding midfielder Gedion Zelalem in a transfer from English Premier League side Arsenal FC. Zelalem has been added to the Sporting KC roster, signing a contract for the 2019 MLS season with club options for 2020 and 2021.
A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, Zelalem arrives in Kansas City after a six-year stint with Arsenal’s youth and senior teams. On the international stage, the midfielder represented Germany at the U-15 through U-17 levels before gaining U.S. citizenship in 2014 and competing for the United States U-20s and U-23s.
4. Russell Recalled
Sporting KC forward Johnny Russell been named to the Scotland Men’s National Team for the start of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying during FIFA’s international window this month. Led by head coach Alex McLeish, Russell and Scotland will begin their Group I qualifying campaign on March 21, visiting Kazakhstan at 10 a.m. CT at Astana Arena in the Kazakh capital of Astana. Scotland will continue their road trip on March 24, traveling to face San Marino at noon CT in Serravalle’s San Marino Stadium.
Russell will join Scotland following Sporting’s MLS regular season match at the Colorado Rapids on Sunday night. The St. Patrick’s Day clash will kick off at 8 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, ESPN 95.3 FM and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
5. Feeling Hungary
Sporting KC defender Botond Barath and forward Krisztian Nemeth have been selected to the Hungary Men’s National Team for the start of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying during FIFA’s international window this month. Barath, Nemeth and the Magyars will begin their Group E qualifying campaign on March 21, visiting Slovakia at 2:45 p.m. CT inside Anton Malatinsky Stadium in Trnava, Slovakia. Hungary will then host 2018 FIFA World Cup finalist Croatia on March 24 in a noon CT matchup at Groupama Arena in Budapest.
6. Rapids on Tap
After battling Independiente, Sporting will travel west for Sunday's MLS matchup against the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The St. Patrick's Day fixture will kick off at 8 p.m. CT, with FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus televising three hours of live coverage beginning with Sporting KC Live presented by Bud Light at 7:30 p.m. CT. Local radio broadcasts will also air on ESPN 95.3 FM and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. Postgame programming will include The Final Whistle show on 95.3 FM and Sporting KC Live presented by Sprint on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
Supporters are welcome to the official watch party for Sunday's match at No Other Pub, where a variety of food and drink specials will be available from 7:30 p.m. CT until the full-time whistle.
7. Bring Your U-S-A Game
International competition is coming to the EA Sports FIFA franchise, and U.S. Soccer announced on Monday that it will be part of the inaugural FIFA eNations Cup, set to take place on April 13-14 in London. The US will be represented at the eNations Cup by the top two US-eligible finishers at the upcoming eMLS Cup in Boston on March 30. This will ostensibly be the winner and runner-up of the tournament, though if either position is occupied by a player that is ineligible to represent the US, the next highest eligible player based on playoff results will be selected.
8. Fantastic Four
Sporting KC Academy quartet Gage Akalu, Nati Clarke, Kelly Kipruto and Misael Mena have ventured south for the U.S. Soccer Youth National Team’s Under-14 Talent Identification Central Region Mini-Camp, which runs Thursday to Monday at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, Texas. In addition, Sporting KC Academy U-15 head coach Chris O’Neal will serve as a coach for the North Central team during the five-day camp.
9. Home Sweet Home
The Sporting KC Academy teams return home on Saturday to host their first Development Academy matches of 2019 at Swope Soccer Village. The tripleheader against Texans SC will see the U-15s and U-17s in action at 9 a.m. CT, followed by the U-19s at 11 a.m. CT. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates this weekend and throughout the year.
10. Radio Rewind
The start of the MLS regular season. The resumption of the Concacaf Champions League. The arrival of big-name midfielder Gedion Zelalem and the announcement of multiple international call-ups. What better way to catch a comprehensive recap of a wild week than by listening to the newest Sporting KC Show podcast, which debuted Tuesday night with hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine on Sports Radio 810 WHB.
In addition to addressing each of the topics above, Bukaty and Augustine spoke with Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza and Mateus Manoel, the club's Director of Sports Performance and Science. The hour-long episode is an absolute must-listen ahead of tonight's pivotal Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal clash.
11. Rule Changes
The International Football Association Board officially unveiled several expected changes to the FIFA Laws of the Game on Tuesday, though those changes won't be implemented in MLS until next season.
The adaptations include more specific guidelines for when a referee should call a handball, a change to the substitution procedure to make exiting players leave via the nearest boundary, changes to allow the showing of red and yellow cards to team officials, as well as changes to goal kick restarts.
Matches to Watch (March 14-17, 2019)
|Tonight, 7pm||Sporting KC vs. Independiente||Concacaf Champions Legue||YahooSports.com, UDN|
|Friday, 2:30pm||Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Freiburg||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 10:15am||Real Madrid vs. Celta Vigo||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 12:30pm||Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 12:30pm||Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 2:30pm||New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes||MLS||Twitter, Univision|
|Saturday, 2:55pm||Wolverhampton vs. Manchester United||English FA Cup||ESPN+|
|Sunday, 9:15am||Fulham vs. Liverpool||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 11:30am||Everton vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 12pm||Bayern Munich vs. Mainz||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Sunday, 2pm||New York City FC vs. LAFC||MLS||FS1|
|Sunday, 4pm||FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers||MLS||FS1|
|Sunday, 8pm||Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC||MLS||FSKC, FSMW Plus|