St. Louis CITY SC: The acrobatics factor must increase

It feels like for only 10 minutes St. Louis CITY SC fell out of first place in the MLS Western Conference after a loss to Seattle Sounders FC.

But they got back to first. And after a draw and matching Seattle in points, St. Louis CITY SC remained in first until their loss to Portland Timbers.

In the first four MLS St. Louis CITY SC wins so far this young season, two players consistently stayed in the game and posted key offensive and defensive contributions.

ST. LOUIS, MO – MARCH 18: Joao Klauss #9 of St. Louis CITY SC. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In the team’s draw vs. Colorado Rapids, one of those players – striker Joao Klauss – got knocked out with an injury. The other top player, midfielder Nicholas Gioacchini, stayed in.

Yet in the draw, goalkeeper Roman Burki stepped up and had the most acrobatic match of his career. While not snaring a win, his 12 saves ensured St. Louis CITY held onto a point.

Burki’s save total in the match was just three fewer than the MLS regular season record. The goal by midfielder Rasmus Alm makes the eighth midfielder goal for CITY. That’s second in MLS behind Columbus Crew. The cross got an assist for winger Jared Stroud and his third goal contribution in St. Louis’s five road games.

ST. LOUIS, MO – MARCH 18: Rasmus Alm #21 of St. Louis CITY SC. (Photo by Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

St. Louis stayed on top of the West. Although equal with the Sounders with 20 points, St. Louis leads in goal difference.

With Klauss out in the second half, Burki showed what can happen when another CITY player stands up and performs their best game.

Head coach Bradley Carnell said the front office and staff always knew what they were getting when they signed Burki. Yet he acknowledged the keeper gets better with match practice.

Then Stroud, combined with Alm, showed a stepped-up performance, as well.

Carnell credited the combination to Alm’s growing steadily in skills. This is most evident in his recent games, where he has made a powerful argument for keeping a place in the lineup.

With their first loss the next week after the draw, they’re back in second place in the MLS Western Conference. But they know what to do to climb back in first.

The CITY starters, and all who want to become starters, exhibit the work practices that show they will fight on both sides of the ball, Carnell said. This was crucial in the Rapids game. Stroud said the players could see the Rapids winning the second balls.

Besides focusing on cross situations, Carnell said Stroud and Alm prepare for duels.

Burki has worked closely and frequently with Alexander Langer, director of goalkeeping. That’s why he’s progressed early in the season in what Carnell calls rhythm and routine leading to the acrobatic skills to handle a dozen saves against the Rapids.

To get into the post-season, St. Louis CITY SC will have to keep those acrobatics coming. And more of them.