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. Mark Your Calendars
Major League Soccer has announced the dates and details for the 2019 postseason roster mechanisms as current MLS clubs and MLS expansion clubs alike make crucial decisions about their 2020 rosters. On Nov. 19, the 2019 Expansion Draft will consist of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC selecting five players each from the eligible player list. Following the Expansion Draft, clubs will have an additional two days to make final determinations on their rosters prior to a Nov. 21 option exercise deadline. On Nov. 22, MLS Communications will release the list of players eligible for each of the postseason roster mechanisms, including the End-of-Year Waivers, Free Agency and the Re-Entry Process.
2. Magisterial Melia
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia is one of 16 finalists for MLS Save of the Year, presented by Allstate. Fan voting is open online at MLSsoccer.com through 11:59 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Melia recorded a career-high 111 saves in 2019, including three penalty stops, and earned his Save of the Year nomination on June 7 against Toronto FC. With the game scoreless in the 12th minute, Melia reacted quickly to keep out Eriq Zavaleta's header from the top of the six-yard box with a sprawling, two-handed stop to his right.
3. Busio in Brazil
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio has joined the United States U-17 Men's National Team for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17. The United States will kick off their World Cup campaign in Group D, facing Senegal this Sunday (2:50 p.m. CT; FS1, Telemundo) before battling Japan on Wednesday, Oct. 30 (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo) and finishing the group stage on Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Netherlands (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo).
4. Academy in Action
Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams continued their 2019-20 U.S. Soccer Development Academy regular season campaigns on Saturday at Swope Soccer Village. The Sporting KC U-15s and U-17s experienced dissimilar results against the Dallas Texans, while the U-19s came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Minnesota-based Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
5. Youngsters Abroad
Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15 forward Gage Akalu and forward Nati Clarke have joined the United States U-15 Boys’ National Team in Poland for a UEFA Development Tournament that will run through Saturday. Akalu and Clarke are among 20 players on the roster—all of whom were born in 2005—as the United States prepares to face international competition under serving head coach Steve Klein, the Academy Director at U.S. Soccer Development Academy club PA Classics.
6. Sunday at the Speedway
Sporting Kansas City winger Gerso Fernandes and midfielder Ilie Sanchez attended the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, participating in a host of activities before and during the race. Click here for a recap of their visit.
7. Sounders Sink Dallas
Seattle Sounders FC and FC Dallas played out an instant classic over 120 minutes at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, with the final stroke of a Jordan Morris hat trick settling a wild 4-3 win for the home side in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
8. RSL edges Portland
In a tale of two halves, Real Salt Lake dominated the Portland Timbers in the opening 45 minutes of their Round One playoff clash on Saturday before the Timbers balancing things out in the second stanza. RSL found the dagger in the dying minutes, using a Jefferson Savarino strike to win 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
9. Galaxy oust Loons
Sebastian Lletget and Jonathan dos Santos netted second-half goals to lift the LA Galaxy to a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United FC in a cagey Round One matchup between the sides at Allianz Field on Sunday. Jan Gregus scored a late goal in the second half to give Minnesota hope for a leveler, but the Loons were ultimately condemned to a gutting defeat on their home field.
10. A Look at the East
Round One playoff action was just as compelling in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta United FC gritted out a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution, Toronto FC scored a remarkable four extra-time goals in a 5-1 defeat of D.C. United, and the Philadelphia Union erased a two-goal halftime deficit to post a pulsating 4-3 extra-time win over rivals New York Red Bulls.
11. Conference Semis are Set
With an excellent batch of Round One matches in the rearview mirror, the table is now set for the Conference Semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday. See below for the full schedule, including kickoff times and TV details.
- Wednesday, Oct. 23: (1E) New York City FC vs. (4E) Toronto FC (6 p.m. CT | FS1)
- Wednesday, Oct. 23: (2W) Seattle Sounders FC vs. (3W) Real Salt Lake (9 p.m. CT | FS1)
- Thursday, Oct. 24: (2E) Atlanta United FC vs. (3E) Philadelphia Union (7 p.m. CT | ESPN2)
- Thursday, Oct. 24: (1W) LAFC vs. (5W) LA Galaxy (9:30 p.m. CT | ESPN)