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. Seventh Heaven
Krisztian Nemeth bagged a hat-trick, Johnny Russell struck twice and Sporting cruised to a record-breaking 7-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.
The scintillating performance saw Sporting (2-1-1, 7 points) reach the seven-goal milestone for the first time in club history, equaling the team’s largest margin of victory in a competitive match. Felipe Gutierrez and 16-year-old Gianluca Busio also got in on the scoring act, the latter becoming the youngest player to score an MLS goal at Children’s Mercy Park, as Manager Peter Vermes’ men handed the Impact (2-2-0, 6 points) their heaviest all-time defeat.
In a departure from past seasons, fans now have a say in the selection of MLS Player of the Week. Supporters can show their Sporting colors today and #VoteGerso using the hashtag on Twitter, with fan votes accounting for 25% of the weighted MLS Player of the Week ballot. Votes casted by North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) will make up the other 75% of the vote.
Gerso is one of four MLS Player of the Week candidates alongside Houston Dynamo winger Alberth Elis, Toronto FC debutant playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo and LAFC forward Carlos Vela.
Week 5 saw some brilliant individual performances.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 1, 2019
Who should be named Player of the Week?
3. Russell Roars
Of the seven goals Sporting racked up in a record-breaking 7-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday, arguably none were better than the very first. Johnny Russell's left-footed firecracker in the 10th minute gave Sporting an early lead and set Manager Peter Vermes' men on their way to one of the most lopsided victories in MLS history. The strike is also one of five nominees for AT&T MLS Goal of the Week for Week 5. Fan can cast their Goal of the Week vote at MLSsoccer.com through 2 a.m. CT Thursday.
4. Ready for Rayados
Following a huge win over the Montreal Impact, Sporting takes momentum into a crucial week highlighted by road games in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League and MLS regular season.
Sporting will first travel south of the border to meet CF Monterrey in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals at Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Guadalupe, Mexico. The 9 p.m. CT showdown will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while Univision Deportes will televise the game live in Spanish. Listeners can also catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM, with The Final Whistle postgame show airing immediately afterward on 810 WHB.
5. Bring on Cincy
After facing Monterrey, Sporting (2-1-1, 7 points) will venture back to the U.S. for their inaugural matchup with MLS expansion side FC Cincinnati (2-2-1, 7 points) on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati is slated for 2 p.m. CT with live coverage on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. The Final Whistle postgame show will follow on 810 WHB.
6. Youngsters Shine
Some of the country's best youth talent was on display Saturday and Sunday as Sporting hosted the inaugural Patterson Cup and Sporting Next-Gen Invitational at Wyandotte Sporting Fields in Kansas City, Kansas.
The Sporting Next-Gen Invitational consisted of 96 teams from across the region at the boys and girls U-8 through U-12 levels. Held in conjunction with the event was the Patterson Cup, an elite U-12 boys tournament featuring six of Major League Soccer's top youth academies—namely Sporting KC, Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC.
7. Cissé Scores
While Sporting were racking up goals at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, 21-year-old Macissé Diop was doing the same at eMLS Cup 2019 presented by PlayStation. Diop represented Sporting on Friday and Saturday in the marquee tournament, which took place at PAX East in Boston. The Philadelphia Union's doolsta topped the LA Galaxy's GGGodfather 2-1 on aggregate to claim the title on Saturday evening.
8. Tohi Ventures
Sporting KC announced today a three-year partnership agreement with Tohi Ventures as the club’s preferred healthy lifestyle beverage. Tohi, a finalist for Best Premium Drink in the 2018 Beverage Digest Awards and a finalist for the SupplySide CPG Editor’s Choice Awards in the Functional Beverage category, produces low calorie, 100% natural, antioxidant-rich, aronia-berry-based products available in four flavors to improve hydration and nutrition.
9. Listen Up
A new episode of The Sporting KC Show Podcast will debut at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday on Sports Radio 810 WHB, serving as a recap of Saturday's 7-1 dismantling of Montreal and a comprehensive preview of this week's trips to Monterrey and Cincinnati. Hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine will be joined by a Sporting KC guest as the club enters a busy month of April.
10. Trip to the Capital
Looking for tickets to Sporting's inaugural trip to Audi Field, the new home venue of Wayne Rooney and D.C. United? Your opportunity for freebies has arrived. Away tickets for Sporting’s match against D.C. United on Sunday, May 12, are now available. Click here to request your tickets to the contest, which will kick off at 6 p.m. CT in the nation's capital.
11. Ranger Danger
While Sporting hits the road, the Swope Park Rangers will continue a three-game homestand in the USL Championship on Saturday. Head coach Paulo Nagamura's men will battle Bethlehem Steel FC at 4 p.m. CT inside Children's Mercy Park, streaming live on ESPN+. Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.