After their first loss of the young MLS season to Minnesota United FC, St. Louis City SC plans to move on after studying the result. More fire is on order.
Minnesota United FC beat St. Louis City SC on their home pitch on April 1. The loss came on a single goal – a 78th-minute right-footed penalty kick by Minnesota striker Luis Amarilla.
It was such a tightly played 90 minutes that CITY goalkeeper Roman Burki even went the right way to block the penalty. But the shot went a foot higher than he did, bending left, high into the net.
For the first time this season, an opponent scouted St. Louis CITY like an established squad, rather than a poorly prepared expansion team. It remains impressive that Minnesota still couldn’t quite neutralize the home team – defense or offense.
While showing CITY the most effective attack this year, it was the penalty-area yellow card foul by defender Kyle Hiebert that opened up a path to more than one point for the visitors. The Minnesota player who got tripped in the penalty area, Amarilla, netted the shot.
Minnesota studied their opponent thoroughly enough to know St. Louis likes to change the game up in the second half. Yet, CITY didn’t do so, but United did, showing a 4-3-3 against the home team’s persistent 4-4-2.
Instead of shifting to other formations, the game plan called for CITY to adjust only through player substitutions.
It was a terrific gamble by Minnesota, settling for an overly aggressive defensive error for the only score. In fact, head coach Bradley Carnell noted after the penalty kick goal how CITY forward Joao Klauss got kicked in the face.
Directly questioned about the Klauss incident, Carnell refused to acknowledge the failure to award his team a penalty kick Instead, he pointed to the lack of what he called the burning fire in the first half. In that presser, he said the players aren’t robots and, along with the staff, are human beings after all.
And Minnesota steadily matched the home team, regardless of formation. That goes double for winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane. He tallied three each in dispossessions and tackles, plus a startling eight aerials won.
With Hlongwane and teammates bounding across the pitch, CITY momentarily played into some of Minnesota’s few strengths. They consistently profit from situations involving set pieces and direct free kicks.
A penalty kick is close enough to one of those situations and got them three points.
Despite the loss, CITY SC prepares for their next match while still on top of the MLS Western Conference, just ahead of their next opponent, Seattle. They still have an MLS-best goal differential (+10).
And they’re still human. They’ll just need to turn up that fire as they next face the Sounders on the road.