September 25, 2022

Watch players produce impressive stats in a new style of play.

Watch the fan response, whether measured by the crowd at a game or the crowd showing up at the airport to greet a player who hasn’t played there yet.

As we approach the launch of St. Louis City SC’s expansion team in Major League Soccer in 2023, the reasons for excitement are mounting. Just look.

St. Louis City2, the local MLS development league team that debuted in March, was riding a seven-game winning streak until a 2-1 loss to Colorado Rapids 2 on Saturday night at South East Korte Stadium. Illinois at Edwardsville. Out of 21 MLS Next teams in action, City2 are tied for second in wins (nine) and points (30). He scored 28 goals while allowing only 16-14 games. City2 are in the top five in goals, assists and attempts on target, according to league records. Only three teams allowed fewer goals and no team allowed fewer shots against or created more interceptions.

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City2 striker Josh Dolling is one of 12 players in the league with six or more goals. Defender Josh Yaro is the top five in interceptions. Midfielder Celio Pompeu is one of the highest ranked players in the league in several dribbling and passing categories. City2, arguably, are the best defensive team in their league. He allowed 39 shots in 14 games. No other team allowed less than 45.

Further down the MLS academy ranks, City’s Under-17 and Under-16 academy sides have both earned appearances in their respective domestic league competitions. Forty-four of the academy’s 52 players are homegrown products. Some were first seen by athletic director Lutz Pfannenstiel on solo scouting trips to high school games shortly after he was hired.

Three new teams in place. Three new teams in the mix to be among the best in their class despite learning a new philosophy and discovering new teammates’ playstyles on the fly. The result must be sufficiently clear. All of this bodes well for the launch of the big team in 2023.

This suggests good things about the football talent produced by this region – no surprise there – but also the ability of this organization to spot it and combine it with added additions from outside that fit the system.

More importantly, these initial squads offer a glimpse of an on-pitch identity that should attract and entertain the most committed football fans in addition to appealing to novices and newcomers. City want to be aggressive all the time. He wants to go on the attack and stay there, turning defense into attack. He wants to play in a way that makes people who think football is boring realize they were wrong. Now there are numbers — and wins — to back up the conversation.

The vision was clear even in a City2 defeat on Saturday, when City2 coach John Hackworth’s side spent the entire first half tipping the action towards Colorado after conceding a goal early. A furious push came late and threatened to equalize a 2-1 loss. The budding signs of a rivalry with Colorado are beginning to bloom, as evidenced by a healthy dose of two-way chatter after the final whistle. (Yes, the Kroenke sports empire also owns the Colorado football team.)

It was a 4th of July weekend. It was raining. It was a half hour drive for many in the stands. People had all kinds of reasons not to come. But there was still a crowd large enough to stun one of the Rapids employees on the road trip. Tailgates appeared in the parking lot before and after the game. A few flags. A steady drumbeat provided by a singing fan provided a bassline for the action. In attendance was goalkeeper Roman Burki, the biggest addition St. Louis City SC have made to their MLS 2023 roster to date. Earlier this weekend, the former German Bundesliga starter stepped off a plane to see a line of St. Louis fans in their 50s greet him at the start of his three-year contract. Talk about a warm introduction.

“It’s the best football city in the country,” Hackworth said after Saturday’s game. “It’s always been like this, and it’s going to get better and better for us.”

We knew football fans here were hungry for MLS. It remains to be determined how competitive their team will be when it launches. The first signs are encouraging and they are multiplying.