St. Louis CITY SC now maintains a sputtering trek toward the playoffs. Yet, progress is made. They will soon clinch a spot in the MLS post-season.
St. Louis CITY SC will enter the MLS post-season after only three more wins. But their opponents won’t willingly help CITY get those few wins through the end of this 2023 season.
Before meeting Sporting Kansas City in early September, they had 47 points holding them in first place in the MLS Western Conference. By the end of the match, Kansas City won 2-1. Nothing changed for St. Louis, yet they remained in first place.
Right after the loss, head coach Bradley Carnell said the final games – including those inevitable, key three wins – will be tight.
St. Louis CITY was built from the midfield out before the first player contract was drafted. From the beginning of this season, even their strongest opponents didn’t understand how to play against them. They have a better idea now, as Kansas City demonstrated.
Carnell said CITY will diligently operate their designed game model no matter what. There isn’t a Sporting Kansas City game design one week, but a different game plan for the next opponent faced. Although there might be differences in lineup or personnel.
Even with the record showing just two wins in the last four games, Carnell recognized the players were aware of increasing tension in the late-season matches. And in response, these same players are getting stronger.
It’s a system that doesn’t require St. Louis to possess the ball longer or get more shots on goal than their opponents. And they didn’t do so in this match.
Kansas City edged St. Louis in possession at 58.3% and 6-2 shots on goal. Sporting striker Alan Pulido ran wildly through CITY ranks late in the first half, scoring in the 31st and 44th minutes. Over the course of the match, he dominated even when not attempting to score a goal.
Recognizing the intensity of the Kansas City squad throughout the match, CITY striker Sam Adeniran said it felt like a playoff game. He scored CITY’s lone goal in the 22nd minute with an assist by midfielder Indiana Vassilev.
Deciphering how Carnell sees the upcoming matches, the three wins will come in games where CITY doesn’t switch off when a striker like Pulido attacks. In what he predicts will be high-level games, a moment of lost concentration or simple errors will lead to big chances.
In those three upcoming wins that clinch the playoffs for St. Louis CITY SC, those big chances must be theirs. Not the opponents’.