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. Heartbreak Hotel
Sporting Kansas City’s club-record eight-year playoff streak was snapped Wednesday night in a late 2-1 loss to Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field. Botond Barath opened his MLS scoring account to give Sporting (10-15-7, 37 points) an early lead, but Minnesota (15-10-7, 52 points) responded with a 70th-minute equalizer from veteran Osvaldo Alonso before substitute Hassani Dotson struck in the 90th minute to seal the comeback and officially eliminate Manager Peter Vermes’ side from postseason contention.
Sporting entered the night needing a victory in order to preserve their slim playoff hopes. Wednesday’s result—the fourth straight loss in which Sporting scored first—means the club will miss the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Loons, meanwhile, have clinched their first postseason berth in club history with two regular season matches to spare.
2. Great Eight
Sporting’s eight-year playoff run clocks in as the fourth-longest postseason streak in MLS history. Only Seattle Sounders FC, the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy have enjoyed longer uninterrupted spells in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
To put Sporting’s streak into further perspective, it ranks as the longest all-time playoff run of any major professional sports team in Kansas City. The Kansas City Royals made a team-best three straight postseason appearances from 1976-1978, while the Kansas City Chiefs claimed six consecutive playoff berths from 1990-1995.
3. Playing for Pride
Sporting will now return to Kansas City for the club's 2019 home finale versus the Portland Timbers on Sunday night. Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. CT matchup remain 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 bags of chips and four hamburgers, hot dogs or chicken tender baskets. The first 5,000 fans through the stadium gates will also receive a free headband courtesy of match sponsor PNC Bank. FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM will carry the game live, with pregame TV coverage starting at 6 p.m. CT.
On Sunday morning, SportingStyle will open matchday mobile orders for that evening's game against Portland. 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.
4. Play The Pros
In conjunction with this week's FIFA 20 pre-release, Sporting and AT&T will host an interactive Play The Pros FIFA 20 Launch Event on Saturday at the AT&T Store at Corbin Park in Overland Park, Kansas (6615 W. 135th St.). The special occasion will see fans test their FIFA skills against Sporting KC Academy products Gianluca Busio and Daniel Salloi from 2-4 p.m. CT.
5. Red Card Campaign
Sporting Kansas City and Children’s Mercy will showcase their Red Card anti-bullying program with five assemblies at local elementary and middle schools in the coming weeks. Coinciding with National Bullying Prevention Month in October, each assembly will feature participation from a Sporting KC player, a Children’s Mercy specialist, Sporting KC commentator Nate Bukaty and club mascot Blue. The first event will take place Monday as Sporting defender Graham Smith visits Tonganoxie Middle School in Tonganoxie, Kansas.
6. SPR Sunk
The Swope Park Rangers’ three-game unbeaten run and shutout streak ended Wednesday night with a 4-1 loss to Loudoun United FC at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia. Sporting KC Academy product Wilson Harris scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season, converting a penalty in the 37th minute for his seventh goal in a torrid eight-game stretch.
7. Fab Felipe
In the Swope Park Rangers’ most emphatic victory of the season, midfielder Felipe Hernandez delivered another standout performance en route to USL Championship Team of the Week honors for Week 29. Hernandez, who signed an MLS contract with Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 30, paced the Rangers to an eye-catching 3-0 win over Charlotte Independence last Saturday. The 21-year-old assisted Wilson Harris’ second goal of the evening, created a game-high eight chances, completed 37 of 43 passes and won seven of eight duels.
8. Talking BS
Episode 16 of BS The Podcast debuted Wednesday as Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber and former Sporting defender Sal Zizzo welcomed Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow. In another entertaining edition of the podcast, Morrow joins the gang to talk about his early professional days in San Jose, reflect on his eventful tenure in Canada and rank the best Designated Players in Toronto FC history.
9. Catch Up with Kitman
In the fourth episode of The Nutmeg Podcast on 610 Sports Radio, host Josh Klingler wanders past the practice pitch, recovery room, gym and lounge, descending to the bowels of Pinnacle where he catches up with Sporting Kansas City Director of Equipment Operations Mike Flaherty.
Nicknamed "Kitman" for his important role at the club, Flaherty has never played or coached a professional match but nevertheless plays an instrumental role in getting the squad ready to roll before each game. In a fast-paced and insightful discussion with Klingler, Flaherty gives a behind-the-scenes look at his daily routine alongside trusted Assistant Equipment Manager Sam Jaksen.
10. Croizet Departs
Sporting Kansas City and midfielder Yohan Croizet have mutually agreed to part ways, the club announced earlier this week. Croizet recorded three goals and two assists in 20 MLS matches this season. The 27-year-old Frenchman ends his two-year stint at Sporting with eight goals and five assists in 62 competitive appearances.
11. Academy in Action
Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams will continue their DA Cup campaigns on Saturday in a tripleheader against the Columbus Crew SC Academy at Crew SC Training Center in Obetz, Ohio. The U-15s will take the field at noon CT, followed by the U-19s at 2 p.m. and the U-17s at 4:30 p.m. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates this weekend and throughout the Development Academy season.