St. Louis City SC: My goodness. Holy Charlie Columbo! City are a smash hit, and I’m not just talking about their immense popularity in Our Town.
For the second consecutive week, City SC brought their pressure-and-punish style of play to thump visiting Charlotte for a 3-1 victory in the first home match in franchise history. In Week One, representing St. Louis for the first time, City went on the road to knock off the oddsmakers and Austin FC for a 3-2 victory.
City trailed in both matches. City prevailed both times. And in each competition, City brought the physicality to decrease the collective willpower of their opponent. I kind of think of this as a tribute to St. Louis and the legendary 1950 U.S. team that upset the vastly superior squad from England – “The Kings of Soccer” – by a 1-0 score.
The U.S side famously featured five St. Louisans, including The Hill Boys. The U.S. couldn’t out-talent England, so they overcame the disadvantage by competing tenaciously for a rugged 90 minutes that frustrated and unsettled the Three Lions.
The moment that encapsulated all of this was The Hill’s Charlie Colombo taking down England’s brilliant Stan Mortensen with a hard tackle just outside the penalty area with eight minutes remaining. England shrieked for a penalty kick, but the Italian referee ruled that Colombo’s aggressive hit was delivered just outside the box.
The late St. Louis soccer icon Harry Keough was a starting defender for the U.S when Columbo intervened.
“Charlie took a head-long dive and hit him right in the back of the knees,” Keough said. “It was a tackle anybody in the NFL would have been proud of.”
The U.S. team was described as a “real bunch of ragamuffins” by the author Geoffrey Douglas. Other soccer journalists went with “plucky underdogs,” among other things.
Their passion, pride and drive was memorable. And that’s why I think it’s fine to invoke the spirit of 1950 when discussing City’s unexpected 2-0 start.
We could say that underdog City was lucky by benefiting from monumental mistakes made by Austin and Charlotte. But I’m not sure about that. Teams that are hounded by pressure, and bothered by hard-edged competitiveness from the other sidr can turn weary and get sloppy.
In their first two matches, City wouldn’t allow Austin and Charlotte to play with the desired tempo, and the frequent disruptions resulted in physical errors and mental gaffes. And City has been outstanding when working tight spaces.
Here’s a keen observation from City coach Bradley Carnell: “Opponents like to reset the game to get their rotations organized and set, right? The minute you take that away, you take away their game plan and the game model. We just have a knack of standing in the right place.”
That’s one way to put it.
In their two victories, City outscored opponents by a combined 3-1 score in the second half. Was this just a simple coincidence? I don’t think so.
St. Lous City SC plays with considerable motivation, and that can be a powerful attribute. To borrow a phrase from the SEC, soccer just means more in St. Louis.
“I think we (were) fighting with the emotions of 70 years of history and bringing the MLS to St. Louis,” Carnell said. “We go a goal down, we went right back in the game and we force a goal, and then we start getting a grip and I thought we had a fantastic second half performance.”
Carnell also said, “we want to embrace the mindset of the St. Louisans.”
— Who was the biggest winner in MLS Week Two? According to Elias Grigoriadis of YahooSports, that would be your St. Louis City SC. Here’s what he had to say:
“Winner: St. Louis City SC, again! Have a bow. After becoming the first team since LAFC to win their inaugural MLS game by stunning Austin FC on the road, St. Louis was welcomed home for its first match at CITY PARK in front of a raucous crowd and kept the good times rolling, dispatching Charlotte FC 3-1. The team has a pretty favorable schedule over the next few weeks, so there’s no reason why this form shouldn’t continue.”
— And City SC received team of the week treatment from the excellent Matthew Doyle of MLSsoccer.com.
“The party in St. Louis is not going to stop for a while, I imagine,” Doyle wrote. “Not when they’ve taken six points from two games – about 80% of teams that do that make the playoffs – and not when they’ve become the first team in MLS history to score three or more goals in their first two outings.
“It’s not going to stop when you’ve got an entire stadium filled with people who stood and chanted and cheered for the full 90 (one of the best crowds I’ve seen in this sport), and not when your DP center forward is scoring goals, nor when your DP central midfielder is running games, nor when the cadre of young guys have looked so good, nor when the cadre of veterans have looked so comfortable and bought in, and definitely not when every opponent they face comes bearing gifts.
“Check all those boxes and the party will only continue, and will only grow. And so that’s how it went on an emotional Saturday night (that surely spilled over into Sunday morning) in the first home game in St. Louis CITY SC history, a come-from-behind 3-1 win over visiting Charlotte.”
— Doyle also praised City for having more skill than anticipated. “St. Louis is fast and direct, but not directionless. They play more soccer and less bumper cars than I think some had expected (I’ll raise my hand here).”
— That said, Charlotte coach Christian Lattanzio was deeply annoyed by the officiating in Saturday’s match. That’s another piece of evidence pointing to how City is getting on its opponent’s nerves. As one Charlotte-based reporter wrote, Lattanzio was livid by what he believes was a clear foul against the Crown’s Enzo Copetti in the box. No call was made.
“I never speak about the referee but this time, I had enough,” Lattanzio said. “His decision was very poor.”
Charlotte led 1-0 at the time. “I think that would have been a game-changer in my opinion. Because if we go up 2-nil (on a penalty kick) then it’s a completely different game.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
I don’t know how long this will last but 2-0 City has made a successful but abrasive start in its MLS debut. That only adds to the fun for STL fans.
Saturday night was an epic event in our soccer-starved sports town. A landmark evening couldn’t have gone any better.
Thanks for reading…
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical 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.
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