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. Four of a Kind
Sporting twice battled from two goals down to rescue a dramatic draw in a 4-4 thriller against the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. A breathless battle filled with flashbulb moments saw Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez bag two goals each, helping Sporting (2-2-4, 10 points) extend their home unbeaten run to 10 regular season matches. The Revolution (2-6-2, 8 points) held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, receiving a Juan Fernando Caicedo brace and additional strikes from Juan Agudelo and DeJuan Jones, but the visitors were reduced to nine men in the late stages and eventually succumbed to a ceaseless wave of Sporting pressure.
2. Saturday Special
What made Saturday's instant classic unprecedented? It was the first competitive game in Sporting's 24-year history that featured a combined seven goals, two red cards and two penalties. Not too surprisingly, the eight-goal barnburner was Sporting's second-highest scoring game all-time, equaling the lofty total reached on four previous occasions but falling short of Kansas City's 6-4 win over Columbus in 1996 at Arrowhead Stadium.
3. Retro Night
Sporting will host the club’s highly anticipated Retro Night on Sunday when defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United FC visits Children’s Mercy Park for a marquee MLS matchup at 8 p.m. CT. Tickets for the contest are on sale at SeatGeek.com and fans who arrive to the stadium early will receive a retro-themed team poster courtesy of match sponsor Kansas City Zoo.
Continuing a long-standing Retro Night tradition, fans will have the opportunity to purchase the club’s new retro jersey at SportingStyle locations inside the stadium on Sunday while supplies last. Ticket holders can also pre-order their retro kit at SportingStyle.com, while all supporters purchase it online at MLSstore.com beginning Wednesday, May 1. Sporting players will wear the new jersey during pregame warmups, paying tribute to the Kansas City Wiz’s vintage rainbow look during the inaugural 1996 MLS season.
4. Sporting's Visionary
The late Neal Patterson may have been credited as the "driving force" behind Sporting Kansas City's revival, but in the five-person Sporting Club ownership group, another individual has played an instrumental role as well. Cliff Illig, who co-founded the Cerner Corporation with Patterson and in 2006 went on to purchase Sporting KC, then known as the Kansas City Wizards, spoke about the process in a long-form profile in the Kansas City Star by Sam Mellinger on Friday.
5. Live the Fantasy
Sporting has announced the launch of the inaugural Sporting Kansas City Fantasy Experience, a two-day adult camp created by Sporting Manager Peter Vermes that runs Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21.
The Fantasy Experience will treat participants to a comprehensive professional soccer excursion, including a scrimmage at world-class Children’s Mercy Park, training and recover sessions at Pinnacle, happy hour celebrations and exclusive tours of Sporting’s world-class facilities. Campers will also spend time at Sporting players’ private quarters within Pinnacle, receiving a personal locker and access to spaces such as the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine gymnasium.
6. SPR Slip
The Swope Park Rangers slipped to a 3-1 loss at cross-state rivals Saint Louis FC on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in Fenton, Missouri. The Rangers, who received their goal from Brazilian left back Alexsander, fall to 0-4-2 and currently sit in 17th place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
7. Youngsters Shine
On the same day their senior teams squared off in an MLS match at Children’s Mercy Park, the Sporting KC and New England Revolution academies locked horns in a tripleheader at sunny Swope Soccer Village. Sporting emerged with a clean sweep of the tripleheader, as the U-19s and U-17s prevailed 2-0 and the U-15s won 2-1. The friendly matches give Sporting momentum ahead of their final five regular season matches in the Development Academy’s Central Conference, slated to run from May 3 to June 2.
8. Greener Goals
Sporting players and associates partnered with local organizations through a variety of volunteer opportunities during the fourth annual MLS WORKS Greener Goals Week of Service from April 16-22.
The club’s week of service was highlighted by a visit to Children’s Mercy Hospital, cleanup at the Kansas City Pet Project animal shelter, and outdoor work at the Heartland Tree Alliance, Shawnee Mission Park and the Ronald McDonald House.
9. Tuesday Tune-In
A new episode of The Sporting KC Show Podcast will debut Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine will hear from a Sporting KC guest, recap Saturday's 4-4 barnburner and look ahead to Sunday's high-profile matchup with Atlanta United FC.
10. Around the League
An early-season trend continued this weekend in MLS as the Western Conference flexed its apparent superiority over the East. Portland won in Toronto, Houston ousted Columbus and Minnesota edged D.C. United as a telling quirk in the MLS standings emerged: the West has five clubs above .500 as the calendar turns to May, while the East has none.
11. Good Samaritans
Sporting and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City are teaming up throughout 2019 to recognize Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, honoring students and teachers who make the Kansas City community a better place to live, work and play. Once a month, a Samaritan will be recognized on the pitch at Children's Mercy Park before a Sporting KC home game. The Samaritan and a limited number of guests will receive a behind the scenes VIP experience with a wide variety of all-inclusive perks. Supporters can nominate members of their community to be the next Blue KC Sporting Samaritan at SportingKC.com/bluekc.