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. Quake in the Boots
Second-half goals from Benny Feilhaber and Graham Smith lifted Sporting Kansas City to a 2-1 comeback victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at electric Children’s Mercy Park. San Jose (11-9-5, 38 points) grabbed a first-half lead through serial goal scorer Chris Wondolowski, but Sporting (8-11-7, 31 points) staged a spirited rally after the break as Feilhaber equalized with a sweetly struck half-volley before Smith bagged his first professional goal to give the hosts three precious points in a thriller that saw both sides combine for 44 shot attempts.
The much-needed win lifts Sporting within six points of the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with eight regular season matches still to play. The Earthquakes remain above the playoff line in sixth place, having suffered their 12th loss in their last 13 regular season visits to Kansas City dating back to 2004.
2. Loons Up Next
Manager Peter Vermes' men will continue their three-game homestand Thursday night when second-place Minnesota United FC (12-8-6, 42 points) visits Children's Mercy Park for an MLS Rivalry Week showdown at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL to secure a Family 4 Pack, consisting of four tickets, four Coca-Cola products, four hot dogs and four bags of chips.
The match will be shown live nationally on ESPN, the ESPN app and ESPN Deportes, while listeners can catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. The Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately afterwards on 810 WHB.
3. MLS Countdown Live
In the buildup to Thursday's pivotal Western Conference clash, MLS Countdown Live will provide 30 minutes of pregame coverage at Children's Mercy Park. The program will begin at 8 p.m. CT and stream live via the ESPN app, @ESPN on Twitter and the ESPN YouTube channel.
4. Honduran Hero
Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza announced on Friday his retirement from the Honduras Men’s National Team after representing Los Catrachos at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the 2012 Olympics and three editions of the Concacaf Gold Cup. Espinoza, 32, has logged 53 appearances for Honduras since debuting at the 2009 Concacaf Gold Cup. The midfielder scored four international goals and featured regularly during the most successful decade in the national team’s history.
5. Matchday Mobile Orders
On Thursday morning, SportingStyle will open matchday mobile orders for that evening's game between Sporting and Minnesota. 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 match. Thursday marks the official launch of SportingStyle's Live Breathe Futbol collection, with new items available at Children's Mercy Park while supplies last.
6. 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 recap Saturday's big win over San Jose, look ahead to Thursday's showdown against Minnesota and preview a mouthwatering slate of MLS Rivalry Week action.
7. SPR Stumble
The Swope Park Rangers (3-13-6, 15 points) took a narrow 2-1 defeat to Atlanta United 2 (5-13-5, 20 points) at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia on Friday night. Jackson Conway and a Jake Davis own goal put the hosts into a 2-0 lead, but Davis responded to provide an excellent assist for Wilson Harris to pull a goal back late for SPR.
8. Rangers Return
The Rangers will continue their USL Championship campaign on Saturday night, hosting Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls II (14-5-5, 47 points) at Children's Mercy Park. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN Plus. Fans can also secure tickets at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office on Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. CT.
9. Get to Know Nico
You may keep up with Sporting KC on the pitch, but what about away from the field? Just Because, presented by Hallmark, is a feature series on SportingKC.com that provides an exclusive look into the lives of players outside of soccer—because everyday moments are sometimes worth celebrating just like a game-winning goal. In the fifth edition of Just Because, we catch up with defender Nico Hasler, who joined Sporting in April after successful stints with Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire.
10. Meet and Greet
At 11 a.m. CT Saturday, Sporting defender and seven-time MLS All-Star Graham Zusi will participate in a meet and greet at Legends Outlets in Kansas City, Kansas (1843 Village West Pkwy.). The event will run until 12:30 p.m. CT and include photo and autograph opportunities with the heralded MLS veteran and U.S. international.
Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia will then participate in a meet and greet at Price Chopper in Roeland Park, Kansas (4950 Roe Blvd.) from 1:30-3 p.m. CT on Sunday. The appearance includes photo and autograph opportunities with the 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, who ranks among Sporting's all-time goalkeeping leaders in wins and appearances.
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.