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. Onward to LA
Sporting Kansas City (10-12-7, 37 points) will take on the LA Galaxy (13-13-3, 42 points) at 9 p.m. CT on Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park with both clubs chasing points in the race for playoff positions in the Western Conference.
The MLS Week 28 finale will be nationally televised on FS1 and FOX Deportes, in addition to a live stream available on the FOX Sports app and radio coverage on ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM. Supporters are invited to the club's official watch party at No Other Pub (1370 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO) in the Kansas City Power & Light District featuring a variety of food and drink specials from 8:30 p.m. CT until the full-time whistle.
2. History Lesson
Sporting have emerged with two wins and a draw in each of their last three road matches against the Galaxy. The stretch began with a 0-0 draw in June 2016 and was followed by a 2-1 triumph in June 2017 and a 2-0 victory in April 2018. Russell and fellow forward Daniel Salloi found the back of the net in Sporting’s most recent trip to Dignity Health Sports Park and will look to replicate that success this time around.
Overall, Sporting are 4-1-4 in their last nine meetings with the Galaxy since October 2015. The lone loss during that stretch came on May 29 of this year when Favio Alvarez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (more on him below) bagged goals to pace LA to a 2-0 win and its first victory in Kansas City since 2007.
3. Midweek Review
MLS fans were treated to four midweek matches on Wednesday night, three of which involved Western Conference opponents locking horns. The LA Galaxy notably fell to a 2-1 loss at the Colorado Rapids, failing to climb back above the playoff line in the process. Elsewhere, Davy Arnaud earned his first coaching win as the Houston Dynamo beat Minnesota United 2-0, Real Salt Lake edged the San Jose Earthquakes by a 1-0 scoreline, and Toronto FC settled for a 1-1 draw with Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC.
4. One Goal to Rule Them All
Did he mean it? Was it really a cross? AT&T Goal of the Week voters didn’t seem bothered about those questions in voting Benny Feilhaber’s top-corner curler the winner for MLS Week 27. The veteran's strike safely outpaced all contenders with 42.5% of the vote.
5. Cameron Joins the Pod
A new episode of The Sporting KC Show Podcast debuted Tuesday night at hosts Nate Bukaty, Aly Trost and Carter Augustine caught up with Meghan Cameron, Sporting’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel. In addition to hearing from Cameron, who has held a vital technical staff role in roster and budget management since late 2017, the crew recapped a busy slate of international action and previewed Sunday’s all-important showdown between Sporting and the LA Galaxy.
6. LD on BS The Podcast
Episode 14 of BS The Podcast debuted Wednesday as Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo welcomed American soccer legend Landon Donovan. Arguably the most accomplished U.S. player in the history of the sport, Donovan won five MLS Cups in 15 seasons while leading the United States Men's National Team to new heights during a heralded international career that spanned from 2000-2014.
7. SPR Stalemate
The Swope Park Rangers (3-16-7, 16 points) battled to a 0-0 draw with the Charleston Battery (8-7-11, 35 points) at Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday night. Both sides had chances, with Felipe Hernandez going closest for the Rangers when his first-half volley struck the woodwork, but the contest ended scoreless as the Rangers posted their third shutout of the 2019 USL Championship season.
8. Rangers Encore
The Swope Park Rangers and North Carolina FC (13-7-8, 47 points) will square off Saturday at world-class Children’s Mercy Park, meeting for the second time this season as the 2019 USL Championship campaign rolls toward the fall. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. CT and tickets for the Eastern Conference clash are available at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office beginning at 2 p.m. CT on matchday.
Supporters can catch Saturday's contest streaming live on ESPN Plus, while the USL Championship Match Center and @SwopeRangers on Twitter will provide additional live updates. Fans will also have the opportunity to win an exclusive prize prize package courtesy of Smile Generation—including an electric toothbrush plus an SPR scarf, beanie, bobblehead and more—by using the hashtag #RangersSmile on Twitter.
9. Academy in Action
After a perfect start to the inaugural DA Cup with a sweep of the Michigan Wolves, the Sporting KC Academy U-15s, U-17s and U-19s will be back in action with a DA Cup tripleheader beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Saturday against Sockers FC at Canlan Sportsplex in Barrington, Illinois. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for updates.
10. Coaches Ed
Major League Soccer announced Tuesday the fourth iteration of its groundbreaking partnership with the French Football Federation (FFF) that will provide 20 experienced MLS youth academy coaches — including Sporting KC U-15 head coach Chris O'Neal — with world-class training through a yearlong youth development course resulting in participants earning their Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL).
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.