If you want to see a beautiful rainbow, then you have to endure the rain … and the thunder and lightning … and the tornado warnings near CityPark.
In what has been a magical A scary, stormy night turned into a rainbow-beautiful 5-1 triumph over visiting FC Cincinnati. A City win was by no means surprising; two of the league’s finest sides were set to clash on Saturday, and raucous crowds in St. Louis provides the epitome of a home field advantage. But the nature of City’s victory – a margin of four goals – was stunning.
And if the legitimacy of City’s excellence was being questioned after they were downed by consecutive shutout losses, the noise was drowned out in the STL storm.
As J. Sam Jones wrote at MLSsoccer.com: What happened? The total and complete annihilation the likes of which we haven’t seen.Did we learn anything? Uhhhhh. Well then. That’s certainly a statement from St. Louis. If you thought they were falling back to Earth quickly, they had other plans. I mean, Cincy were the Supporters’ Shield leaders coming into this one. And St. Louis ran them over with a Mack truck.”
On a weekend when the Cardinals stood around on the bases and struggled to score runs against the Pirates, and the Blues’ GM and key players described a personal-professional disconnect and a lack of commitment and professionalism as crucial factors in a lost season …
Well, the boys of City SC had fun and stayed loose in the locker room during a two-hour weather delay, then went out to play in the rain. This is what kids do when the skies open. Take it all in, have fun, splash around, and enjoy an enthralling experience. The City fans? They’re the best and most spirited mass of supporters in the MLS, so what did we expect? Like, they were all gonna go home instead of staying to celebrate a rout?
This was soccer Woodstock. Before, during and later. What a night. What a team. Just a helluva good time.
“It was incredible just to see the boys hanging about with a bunch of friends, and just good teammates,” City head coach Bradley Carnell said after the game. “I heard some good spirit in the locker room, and it was our purpose to come out of the locker room as energized as we were for two hours.”
After scoring – and dancing – in the rain, City is 6-2, is back on top of the overall league standings with 18 points. They’ve scored the most goals of any MLS team (20), and have the largest goal differential (+11).
The scenes were beautiful.
City are more than just their impressive record. This is a lovable team, leading us through a remarkable season that’s raised the spirit and the soul of St. Louis sports fans. This team is a dream for the soccer faithful who longed for an MLS franchise to arrive on our riverbanks.
City’s collective team personality and playing style stand out. Not only are City leading the MLS with an average of 2.25 goals per 90 minutes, they’re doing it with a working-class vibe. City lead the MLS in blocks and tackles. They’re tied for first with a 57.6% success rate on take-ons. Their combined tackles and interceptions – 305 – is 68 more than any other MLS team. Carnell’s high-pressure system – and the enthusiasm for playing it – has City ranked third in the league with an average of 3.25 goal-creating actions per 90 minutes.
And if you think they’re just benefiting from lucky breaks, find a new narrative. This team pace the MLS with shots on target (46) and are second in percentage of shots on target (40.4%) These boys aren’t using drones to score. This is no secret: skill, the sweat of intense effort and sublime timing leads to substantial goodness.
City have an expected goals rate of 11.3 … which is 6.17 goals less than they’ve actually scored. This amuses me. The good-luck factor isn’t a magic trick. It won’t dissolve. City’s goals just don’t happen; the goals are earned.
As for the “expected” goals thing, I’ll defer to Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano, who said: “I look at the final score. I don’t look at expected goals.”
City had 1.5 expected goals in the match.
Cincinnati also had 1.5 expected goals.
Please. City SC all but ran Cincy out of the place. The announcers working the game for Apple TV were shouting about City’s clear dominance and spoke of the club in positively empathic tones.
The MLS doesn’t base the standings on expected goals for, and expected goals against. Those things provide context and can be predictive but the real stuff counts.
Before Saturday, Cincinnati had conceded only four goals in seven games.
City SC invaded Cincy’s defensive channel and scored five in one game.
Said Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan: “We had a strong enough group to go out there and get a result. You can go a lot of ways with this but it certainly didn’t feel like a 5-1 game, but it was. So, that’s where we have to figure out the areas where we went wrong. I think St. Louis) were just far superior in the boxes tonight.”
The two-game losing streak was washed away.
“Shows resilience,” midfielder Jared Stroud said. “We’ve had tough times in the year where we’ve been down a goal and we’ve come back and won those games. It’s important for us to have the right mentality. It shows the guts that the guys in the locker room have and the camaraderie we have.”
City and their supporters didn’t feel the stress of Saturday’s storm. When it was go time, City rushed out and scored a torrent of three first-half goals. Their anchor was strong and powerful and befitting of the league’s top team in the standings.
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.
Metrics used in this column were sourced from FBreference.com
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.