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. Salt in the Wound
Sporting Kansas City fell 2-1 to rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park, dropping eight points below the Western Conference playoff line with 10 regular season matches remaining.
Johnny Russell fired the hosts ahead with a scintillating free kick in the 31st minute, but RSL overturned the deficit behind a brace from Corey Baird. The 23-year-old forward restored parity seven minutes before halftime and bagged the game-winner in the 70th minute to condemn Sporting to their fifth home defeat of 2019 and strengthen RSL’s hold on sixth place in the West.
2. Lions and Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City has the opportunity to bounce back with a pair of matches this week as the MLS regular season continues. First up is a Wednesday visit to Eastern Conference outfit Orlando City SC (8-11-6, 30 points) at Exploria Stadium. The contest will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. Listeners can also catch the action live on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following on 810 WHB.
After facing Orlando, Sporting will return to Kansas City to host the San Jose Earthquakes (11-8-5, 38 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. Tickets for the Western Conference clash at Children's Mercy Park are available at SeatGeek.com with live coverage set for FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
3. No Other Party
Fans of all ages are invited to the official watch party for Wednesday's match at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District, featuring an all-inclusive buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers plus $4 Bud Light drafts, Corona bottles, Captain Morgan and select call cocktails. No Other Pub will also conduct ticket giveaways for a future Sporting KC home match at Children's Mercy Park.
4. Tune In Tuesday
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 preview a pivotal double matchweek for Sporting with battles against Orlando and San Jose on the immediate horizon.
5. Strong Showing
The Sporting KC Academy U-15s kicked off their 2019-20 season in impressive fashion this week, winning three of four matches and earning a second-place finish at the RSL Academy Cup in Herriman, Utah. Ten different players found the back of the net for Sporting in round robin victories over Mexican club Tijuana, Real Salt Lake and Napa United. These wins set up a rematch with Real Salt Lake in Saturday’s championship, which saw Sporting fall just short in a 4-3 thriller at the Zions Bank Training Center.
6. Dynamic Duo
Sporting KC Academy forward Osvaldo Cisneros and midfielder Rokus Pukstas featured for the United States in Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Portugal in the semifinals of the 2019 Concacaf U-15 Championship at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The result came two days after Cisneros scored both goals in the USA's 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Costa Rica on Thursday. Pukstas played an integral role in the lead-up to both strikes, with Cisneros bagging his first in the 11th minute and doubling his total in the 47th minute.
7. Matchday Mobile Orders
On Saturday morning, SportingStyle will open matchday mobile orders for that evening's game between Sporting and San Jose. Fans will have the opportunity to place mobile orders through halftime by visiting SportingStyle.com, with pickup on the Toyota Plaza remaining open until after the game. The SportingStyle Pop-In Store in the Budweiser Brew House at Children's Mercy Park will also be open today through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT. Follow @SportingStyle on Twitter and Instagram for sneak peeks of all the latest club apparel.
8. Sporting Classic
On Saturday and Sunday, select Sporting KC players will appear at the Sporting Classic youth soccer tournament at Wyandotte Sporting Fields in Kansas City, Kansas. The Sporting Classic is an elite youth soccer tournament open to U-9 through U-14 boys and U-9 through U-15 girls teams. For more information, visit SportingKCyouth.com/SportingClassic.
9. Meet Roger
Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza will participate in a meet and greet at Price Chopper in Lee's Summit, Missouri (937 NE Woods Chapel Rd.) from 1:30-3 p.m. CT on Sunday. The appearance includes photo and autograph opportunities with the MLS veteran, who ranks among Sporting's all-time leaders in games played and has represented Honduras in two editions of the FIFA World Cup.
10. Trouble in the West
Sporting's playoff hopes took a hit Saturday night as fellow Western Conference clubs FC Dallas and Portland Timbers earned two-goal wins over Minnesota United FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, respectively. Runaway Supporters' Shield leaders LAFC sit atop the table with 55 points, but only five points separate second place from eighth in a remarkable Western Conference logjam.
11. Good Samaritan
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.