ST. LOUIS - In St. Louis City SC’s previous meeting with the LA Galaxy, a 1-1 draw at CITY PARK in June, City head coach Bradley Carnell thought his team deserved all three points.

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“I thought we dominated that game,” Carnell said at his City’s pre-match presser on Friday. “Just a pity that we give up that one moment in the game and concede late on. I thought we dictated and controlled that game pretty much how we wanted to.”

With that belief, City and Carnell head into Sunday’s clash with the Galaxy in suburban Los Angeles with aims to repeat their performance from June 11, and come out with three points this time.

“Pretty much the same recipe this time around.”

That recipe is Bradley Carnell’s signature mix of high-energy, high-pressing, low-possession soccer. It’s a recipe that suits City well in the MLS Western Conference, according to Carnell.

“We’re cut from a different cloth from a lot of the other Western Conference teams,” noted Carnell. “We pose some good problems for these Western Conference teams, LA Galaxy included.”

“(The Galaxy are) a team that enjoys the ball, a team that enjoys connecting passes and playing sideways and backward,” Carnell analyzed. “Then they try to isolate you on one side. It’s a good team, a great matchup for us.”

When you face the Galaxy, you have to reckon with Riqui Puig, the central cog in pretty much everything LA does with the ball. For those unaware, Puig is one of Major League Soccer’s biggest young stars at just 24 years old and joined the Galaxy last summer after notching 42 appearances for world soccer giants Barcelona from 2019-2022.

As a product of the infamous Barcelona youth academy, better known as “La Masia”, Puig has garnered comparisons to FC Barcelona greats of the past. His style of play directing the midfield has most often been compared to Andres Iniesta, widely considered one of the best midfielders to ever play the sport.

“(Puig)’s a big transitional player for (the Galaxy),” said Carnell. “They are one of the best possession teams in the league, they try to shift quickly and change the point of attack, but everything pretty much comes through Riqui (Puig).”

Puig has five goals and four assists for the Galaxy this season, including three goals in their last five matches. In that span, dating back to LA’s 3-1 win over Philadelphia, the Galaxy have won each time Puig has put the ball in the back of the net.

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In the 1-1 draw between City and the Galaxy, Puig was ever-present, with 91 touches of the ball, 82% pass accuracy, and winning a handful of fouls. He even won the foul that would lead to the Galaxy’s 85th-minute equalizer. Even when not scoring or assisting, Puig is influencing games all over the pitch.

“(Puig)’s difficult to track, he’s a good player,” acknowledged Carnell. “Sometimes he bounces out as an outside back, sometimes he’s between the center backs. Then he’s all over the right wing, and the left wing.

“It's up to us and our positional discipline on the day and how we go about it. Don’t want to be too attracted to (defending Puig specifically), but making sure we shift over, connect, and get numbers around the ball. We want to deny service to Riqui Puig, and we have some good players to do that.”

Of those players usually buzzing in and around the City midfield, it appears Rasmus Alm is questionable for Sunday’s game. Alm was missing from the practice field on Friday.

“Rasmus (Alm) has an ongoing thing that’s been plaguing him for a couple of months now,” Carnell said Friday. “Some days he has good days, some days are bad days. We’ll have to see and make a call on Rasmus, but I’m not too sure, he has some discomfort in his lower abdomen.”

Tim Parker, who left last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat on the road at Sporting Kansas City due to what’s been called a lower-body injury, has been practicing this week and looks to be 100 percent for Sunday’s match in LA.

If there are any details to nitpick about City’s unprecedented inaugural season, form away from CITY PARK has been the team’s real glaring weakness. Outside of St. Louis city limits, the boys in CITY Red are 5-9-1 and have lost three straight on the road in MLS play.

The road struggles make securing home-field advantage in the first round of MLS playoffs all the more crucial for St. Louis City. Luckily for Carnell and company, the teams chasing City in the Western Conference have had a few slip-ups of their own.

City, for the most part, controls their own destiny heading into this final stretch of the MLS regular season before the playoffs start.

“Winning is a byproduct of doing good things,” said Carnell of how his team approach the end of the season. “We’ve done some great things in this season, we are where we are because we deserve to be here… We control our destiny, but we just have to give the best version of ourselves, be the best teammates we can be.”

City takes one step towards controlling their playoff destiny when they take the field against the Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California Sunday evening.

Kickoff is just after 7:00 pm central time on Apple TV, with local radio broadcasts available on KYKY 98.1 FM in English and KXOK 102.9 FM in Spanish.

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