Undefeated St. Louis City SC continues to rise in the weekly MLS Power Rankings. Their swift ascension is pretty remarkable for an expansion team, and City continues to be a delightful story.

After City’s 3-0 shutout of San Jose, SoccerAmerica’s Paul Kennedy moved St. Louis into the league’s No. 1 spot.

“St. Louis City is off to the best start of any expansion team in MLS history. It is also the fifth team to start out with a 4-0-0 record in the post-shootout era. Kennedy used this quote from City coach Bradley Carnell. “Is it a surprise for us? No. The boys were confident from Day 1. The boys were angry from Day 1 that no one believed in them. So yeah, we’ve got the chip on the shoulder, we had the chip on the shoulder. But now we’ve shown that it’s not just about having a chip on the shoulder.”

J. Sam Jones of MLSsoccer.com lifted City into the No. 3 spot in the 29-team rankings.

“The best expansion start in MLS history,” Jones wrote. “Can you really add anything beyond that at this point? It’s not Atlanta, it’s not Seattle, it’s not Portland, it’s not LAFC. No, it’s St. Louis. They’re talented, they’re playing for each other, they’re in a helluva positive feedback loop and they may never lose again. It’s the kind of situation that’s beyond regular analysis of whether a team is good or bad. They’re the hero of the story right now and that’s all that matters. Also, ya know, they’re pretty damn good. Did I mention they won 3-0 this week despite missing three center backs?”

ESPN’s Ryan Rosenblatt moved City from 11th to 5th in this week’s updated rankings. “A comprehensive win over San Jose and the complete list of expansion teams to win their first four games in the history of MLS is as follows: St. Louis City,” he wrote.


1. The St. Louis Battlehawks are dominating the XFL in home attendance, and the gap between STL and the league’s other seven franchises is stunning. Take a look:

* During the past two weekends at home, the Battlehawks attracted a total of 74,178 fans to the thunderdome at America’s Center for an average of 37,089 per game. The other six home games in the XFL over the last two weeks attracted 65,150 fans – an average of 10,858 per game.

* In Week 4, the Battlehawks set an XFL record for single-game home attendance at 38,310. The other three home games in Week 4 averaged 12,212.

* In Week 5, the Battlehawks attracted the second-largest home crowd for an XFL game (35,868.) The other three XFL home games over the weekend averaged only 9,504 fans.

Just a reminder, y’all: St. Louis loves pro football. Always has.

2. Hello, Joel Hofer. The Blues didn’t miss goaltender Jordan Binnington – at all – during his two-game suspension. In victories over Washington and Winnipeg, When playing at even-strength situations, Hofer had a .981 save percentage and stopped 10 of 11 high-danger scoring chances. His teammates really responded to the rookie, who was protected by a determined group of defensemen who routinely left Binnington stranded. What, of anything, does this tell us? It’s too soon to make any conclusions, but the early trend with Hofer in goal is damn interesting.

Though Binnington is eligible to return for Tuesday’s home game against Detroit, coach Craig Berube is going with Hofer in the net. When asked about Binnington’s recent play, Berube said “I think it’s up and down a little bit. For me, it’s just been up and down right now. That’s where I put it.”

Looking at next season, Hofer can fulfill the old Ville Husso role and give Berube the chance to be more aggressive by using the No. 2 goaltender extensively when the erratic Binnington plays poorly or freaks out. That wasn’t possible with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss this season; he didn’t establish full trust. But if Hofer plays well, the team’s goaltending job could be a time-share situation in 2023-2024.

3. Our Town’s Jayson Tatum is slumping. The Boston Celtics have a 7-6 record since the NBA All-Star break, and part of the reason is cold shooting by Tatum. Before the All-Star break Tatum hit 46.4 percent of his shots from the floor including 35.7% from 3-point range. But since the All-Star break Tatum has shot 42 percent from the floor and made only 29% of his threes.

Fatigue could be an issue. According to The Athletic, Tatum didn’t score a point in the second half of Saturday’s 118-117 loss at Utah. And over his last four games he’s scored 10 points total on 1-for-12 combined shooting in the fourth quarter. And Tatum has only one assist in 33 fourth-quarter minutes during that time. The Celtics are 2-2 on their current five-game road trip. In the two losses, Tatum did not score at all in the fourth quarter.

4. I’m looking forward to Team USA vs. Team Japan in tonight’s World Baseball Classic final. That’s for many reasons including Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Lars Nootbaar. But most of all, it will be great to see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani finally get the opportunity to play in a big game.

5. Japan’s 6-5 walk-off triumph over Mexico in Monday’s semifinal was scintillating entertainment and a pleasure to watch. I just hope the Cardinal reliever Giovanny Gallegos can shake off the disappointment of getting blasted in the bottom of the ninth for a blown save that knocked Mexico out of the tournament. Gallegos faced three batters and did not record an out. The game-winning sequence: Ohtani double, a walk, and the two-run double by Munetaka Murakami.

6. Nootbaar, who bats leadoff for Japan, went 0 for 3 with two walks in the victory over Mexico. Noot hasn’t hit for power in his six WBC games. But he has seven hits, six walks and two steals – and is hitting .318 with a terrific .483 onbase percentage going into tonight.

7. The former Cardinal outfielder (sigh) Randy Arozarena had an incredible WBC for Mexico. In six games he batted .450, had a .607 OBP, and slugged .900 slug – with six doubles, a homer, nine RBI and eight runs scored. And Arozarena was spectacular defensively in left field. Dude thrives in big-game conditions. In the 2020 postseason he launched 10 homers with 14 RBI and 19 runs scored in 20 games for Tampa Bay. He batted .377 with a .442 OBP and .831 slug while leading the Rays to the American League pennant and a spot in the 2020 World Series. The Dodgers won the World Series in six games – and their pitchers’ ability to chill Arozarena down was a big reason why.

8. St. Louis City SC have been linked to Roberto Firmino, the forward or attacking midfielder for Liverpool of the EPL. The Brazil star has said he will leave the Merseyside club when his contract expires this summer. In speaking to The Athletic, St. Louis City sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel didn’t exactly terminate the speculation. Pfannenstiel and Firmino have an affiliation through their time together at 1899 Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Firmino played four seasons there, and Pfannenstiel was the team’s scouting director.

“I think it was a very natural course that we were linked with Roberto Firmino once he actually stated that he will leave Liverpool in the summer,” Pfannenstiel told The Athletic. “There is always that connection at Hoffenheim between me and him, so that was something which was not unexpected, to be honest. However, he, without any doubt, for me, would be the best player in the league because he is an amazing player, and we all know that.

“If that is realistic for us, as St. Louis, to sign Roberto Firmino, that is something we really need to figure out, like, right now.”

Great quote.

9. So far in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, defense has really mattered. Twelve of the 16 teams that survived the first two rounds ranked among the top 40 nationally in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. And six of the 12 teams are in the top 10 in defensive efficiency: Tennessee (1), UCLA (2), Alabama (3), Houston (4), San Diego State (5) and Texas (10.) Four others can be found close by on the list of teams that play the best defense: Creighton (13), UConn (14), Arkansas (15) and Kansas State (17.)

During the first two rounds, the winning teams gave up an average of 63 points per game. And in the 32 games, only five teams scored more than 70 points.

That impacted the betting markets. If you heavily played the over for the first 32 games — wagering on teams to finish with more combined points than the total listed for the contest — better luck next time. Even though the overs rebounded well on Sunday (6-2), betting the under came through with a 32-16 success rate (66.7%.)

10. I’m on the pitch clock and better fire off some quick-hit observations on the Cardinals:

Jordan Walker: after homering four times in his first seven Grapefruit League games, the rookie giant had gone 12 straight games (35 at-bats) without a homer. This doesn’t include any at-bats that Jordan may have taken on Tuesday’s tilt against Washington. Whatever it’s worth Walker has drawn one walk in 54 plate appearances this spring. But his spring-training numbers are swell: .340 batting average, .352 OBP and .604 SLG for a .956 OPS. And he’s hitting the ball hard. He’s done enough to make the big club for Opening Day?

Can we stop talking about Paul DeJong? At least for a minute? The Dude is going on the IL, so let it be for a while. The amount of oxygen and brain cells we’ve wasted on a backup shortstop is preposterous. Find another obsession. Please.

Oh. And Masyn Winn has a chance to be, say, Francisco Lindor one day. But that day ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Will you please give this talented young dude a chance to develop in a way that will only make him more prepared to excel when upon arrival in he majors. Patience.

Jack Flaherty: His last two starts combined, including Tuesday’s assignment vs. Washington: 9.0 innings, 16 hits, five earned runs, 5.00 ERA, one walk and seven strikeouts. He’s been working on a new pitch, a cutter, and that takes time to develop. That said, I liked it better when Flaherty was rolling in his earlier starts this spring.

Alec Burleson is making something of a late run in camp, so please hit the “pause” button on your 26-man roster projections. After a too-quiet start, Burleson is batting .261 in his last seven games with two doubles and five RBI. Nothing dramatic, but he’s on the right track. It’s conceivable that both Burleson and Juan Yepez make the opening-day roster if the Cardinals are comfortable with the idea of using Brendan Donovan at shortstop when Tommy Edman has the day off. But if they add infielder Taylor Motter to the roster to fill the spot that would have gone to DeJong, it likely comes down to a Yepez-or-Burleson decision.

— With Matthew Liberatore and Dakota Hudson optioned to Triple A Memphis, it looks like Jake Woodford will be doing his pitching for the Cardinals for the start of the regular season. Congrats.

After a spin in the World Baseball Classic, I hope Tommy Edman and Tyler O’Neill have the to get ready for the start of the regular season. I exclude Lars Nootbaar from that simply because he’s been very busy in the WBC and should roll into spring training without a fuss.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in this column were sourced from Baseball Reference, Reference, and Natural Stat Trick.