KANSAS CITY - If there’s one thing St. Louis City SC head coach Bradley Carnell has spoken about wanting to improve, it’s his team’s ability to get results on the road. Away from CITY PARK, City had lost their last three going into Saturday’s rivalry matchup with Sporting Kansas City.
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Outside of their perfect start in February and March where City won their first three road games, the team was 2-8-1 in their travels away from home. That record did not improve on Saturday night, where City fell 2-1 to their foes from across the state.
As soon as the match kicked off, you could feel an intensity that might have been missing from their first meeting. It didn’t just feel like an MLS game, the tackles were harder, the pace was faster, it was breathless, even just watching.
“We knew what this type of game would be like today,” Bradley Carnell said postgame. “We knew that there was going to be a lot of intensity in this game, a lot of pride at stake.”
When Sam Adeniran opened the scoring with a strong left-footed shot in the 22nd minute, the much more red end of Children’s Mercy Park outside Kansas City erupted. St. Louis fans, clad in their CITY Red, invaded the infamous “Blue Hell” in their thousands. Not just in one corner of the stadium, but smatterings of CITY Red could be found all throughout the stadium other than the “Cauldron” end of SKC supporters.
Adeniran did most of the work after taking an Indiana Vassilev outlet pass. The big striker was given an opportunity to shoot with his left, and he made no mistake.
“It felt great. Honestly, it sounded like CITY PARK,” Adeniran noted the noise after his goal. “It didn't sound like we were at another team’s stadium. Having that many fans show up for us just shows how great of a club we are, how great of a fan base we have.”
City’s lead would last less than 10 minutes. As he has so often for Sporting Kansas City, Alan Pulido came to the rescue, arriving just in time on the end of a Dániel Sallói cross to put the ball into an empty net.
“You can feel as the season goes on games are tight,” said Carnell. “Sporting KC, at this moment in time in their season, they’re on the lifeline, and you can just see that. These are really high-level games, and simple errors lead to big chances.”
Pulido’s goal came from City making a mistake in clearing the ball, which found an SKC player and eventually found the back of the net.
Just over 10 minutes later, Sporting’s continued pressure would lead to them taking a lead before the halftime whistle. SKC’s Jake Davis found space to attack on the right wing, beating City defender Anthony Markanich, in his first start for the team.
Davis, now rushing toward Roman Bürki’s six-yard box, played a soft pass back to Alan Pulido who once again found himself in open space in front of the City goal, dispatching the shot into an empty net again.
Bürki expressed confusion, or perhaps anger, with his defense following the second Pulido goal. City’s defense didn’t learn a lesson on the first, and for a second time in the first 45 minutes, forgot where Sporting Kansas City’s most dangerous goalscorer was on the pitch.
Bradley Carnell’s response at halftime was to bring on João Klauss to add another attacking option, and bring on Eduard Löwen to add a bit of quality to the midfield attack.
It was actually Jared Stroud who popped up with the first opportunity for City to equalize just a few minutes into the second half. Stroud had a breakaway, beyond the Kansas City defense, but finished with a rather weak shot towards SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Sam Adeniran had the ball in the back of the net in the 51st minute, but was ruled offside in what was an incredibly close call. City players, and the thousands in red in the stands at Children’s Mercy Park, were imploring referee Allen Chapman to consult the VAR to reverse the on-field offsides call.
Those protests fell on deaf ears, and City played on, but really couldn’t gain a foothold in the contest. To his credit, Roman Bürki did his part to keep City in the game in the second half.
Bürki made a number of saves that showcased his skill in positioning and reaction time right around the 73rd minute mark. They may not have been his most photographer-friendly, high-leaping saves, but they kept City in the contest.
Bradley Carnell’s attack-minded subs did not truly create any sustained pressure until it was likely too late. City’s best shot of the second half was an Eduard Löwen curler in the 77th minute that was rather routinely pushed aside by Sporting keeper Tim Melia.
The final whistle blew, and City’s winless streak on the road extended to four. They’re now 2-9-1 away from CITY PARK in all competitions.
“We’re at this phase of the season where it’s not coming our way at the moment in terms of results in away games,” said Bradley Carnell following the loss. “But our players left it all out, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“I was proud of the fans who came here in the thousands and pushed us. It was just an amazing game and experience to be part of. Unfortunately, we fell short, but I think we left it all out there. I’m proud of my boys.”
With two more matches on the road before returning to CITY PARK on September 20, City looks to break their away winless streak Sunday, September 10 when they head to Hollywood to take on the LA Galaxy.
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