The Western Conference’s top seed is out to avoid disappointment amid a historic season as St. Louis City SC hit the road to face Sporting Kansas City on Sunday in the second leg of a best-of-three first-round playoff series.
Sporting KC earned a 4-1 win last Sunday at St. Louis, stunning the first-year club with just its fifth home loss all season. One more win for Sporting KC and St. Louis’ inaugural season is done. The expansion side started the season in historic fashion, winning its first five matches. That catapulted them into the top spot in the Western Conference and they became the first MLS expansion team to finish atop the conference regular season standings in league history. But things have not gone well recently. St. Louis has lost three straight matches for the first time all season, including the final two of the regular season when they were shut out both times. During its three-match skid, St. Louis has conceded nine goals. St. Louis head coach Bradley Carnell is trying to stay positive after Tim Parker has scored his team’s only goal in three matches. Joao Klauss and Niko Gioacchini led the team with 10 goals each in the regular season. “We are growing, and these types of experiences, both the good and the negative, help us get one more step forward,” Carnell said. “What’s been a step back, we hope it’s to take two steps forward.” Sporting KC had a completely opposite start to the season, going winless in their first 10 matches (0-7-3). They gradually built momentum, clinching a spot in the playoffs on Decision Day. They defeated San Jose on penalties after a scoreless draw in a wild-card game. SKC then scored three first-half goals at St. Louis after going almost 20 years without a first-half goal in a road playoff match. Logan Ndenbe, Remi Walter and Gadi Kinda all scored in the opening 39 minutes.
Suddenly, one win in the next two matches propels SKC into the next round. “It’s gonna be a battle,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “That’s all I can say. The game’s going to be an absolute battle. They have a really, really good team, and they want to get the win. But so do we.”
–Field Level Media