Anthony Markanich celebrates after knocking in the first goal of the game for St. Louis City SC Wednesday night at CITY PARK. (Photos by Brad Piros)

Nökkvi Thórisson flying high after doubling City's lead in the 85th minute Wednesday night at CITY PARK against a short-handed FC Dallas. (Photos by Brad Piros)

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ST. LOUIS - It wasn’t your usual night of MLS action at CITY PARK on Wednesday when FC Dallas came to town. A game shaped by an early red card turned into a test of patience for St. Louis City SC, a test that they passed in the end, 2-1.

That early red card came in the 12th minute when Dallas goalkeeper Maarten Paes rushed out of his 18-yard box to beat City winger Rasmus Alm to a loose ball. He won the race to the ball, but in doing so, clearly handled the ball with his left arm.

With their starting goalie sent off, Dallas were down to 10 men, and had to substitute their striker Jesus Jimenez for backup goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. Dallas went defense-first, which meant City was tasked with having to break down a rather stationary defensive block.

“Pressing teams have always had problems breaking down teams, we've had trouble at times,” said City head coach Bradley Carnell following the match. “I've been part of teams that struggled to break down eight versus 10 outfield games… So I know how difficult it can be. It's one breakaway the other way, and we are a goal down.”

That breakaway did come in the 26th minute, and Roman Bürki had to be prepared as Dallas’s Jader Obrian got in the box following a City defensive turnover. Obrian’s effort was tame however, and all Bürki had to do was hit the deck to stop the weak shot.

That, however, was the biggest chance either team had in the first half, despite City having the man advantage and dictating possession. Dictating possession hasn’t been City’s strong suit, until Wednesday night, City had three losses in the three games they had more than 50 percent possession of the ball.

The second half became a question of if City could break down the FC Dallas defense. Bradley Carnell made some changes at half to do just that. New signings Anthony Markanich and Nökkvi Thórisson came on at half for Kyle Hiebert and Sam Adeniran respectively.

Those substitutions started to pay dividends early, and City was clearly stronger coming out of the halftime break. Markanich, being a true left back/wingback, offered City a new width, a new dimension going forward. Thorisson added a bit of movement that was lacking in the first half.

Carnell clearly saw that the team was playing too narrow, and the substitutes made at half started to make their presence felt as the second half wore on. City kept pushing, pushing, and pushing.

“Our way, our players, the way we train every day, the way we play, the system we play is really tiring,” said Carnell. “It breaks our own players down sometimes just in terms of our training load. So we just think of cumulatively what can that do to the opponent.

“We strategically break an opponent down and wear them down. So the longer the game went on, we all had the belief that it was just a matter of time until something happened.”

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The game went on quite long, in fact, before that something came in the 82nd minute.

Rasmus Alm played a lofted cross to the back post, and new City signing and halftime sub Anthony Markanich kneed the ball home from close range.

“It’s my first MLS goal,” said Markanich, who was all smiles after the game. “I didn’t even really know what to do after.”

Markanich was at times a forgotten man playing for the Colorado Rapids. Just a handful of starts this season, and bounced between Colorado’s first team and their MLS NEXT Pro reserve team Rapids 2. He’s now arrived on the scene in St. Louis in a big way.

“Coming from Colorado, you can tell why these guys (City) are in first,” said Markanich. “Just the intensity and competitiveness in training… The crowd is crazy too, especially coming from Colorado to here.”

That crazy crowd was sent into a frenzy when another summer signing and halftime substitute Nökkvi Thórisson slotted home his first goal in CITY red in the 85th minute.

A beautiful cross from Eduard Löwen, who had another great game on the ball, bounced in the box, Joao Klauss played a dummy to distract the Colorado defense momentarily, letting the ball go to Thórisson at the far post, all Thórisson had to do was knock it home.

“Great pass from Edu (Löwen),” said Thórisson postgame. “Then Klauss let the ball through, and I just pushed it in. (The play) shows what a great player Klauss really is.”

While the new guys stole the show at CITY PARK, the biggest cheer before the goals was for Joao Klauss coming on as a sub in the second half. Klauss made his presence felt on his return home, creating the space and playing the dummy that set up the second goal.

FC Dallas notched a consolation goal in stoppage time when a rare Roman Bürki fumble was prodded home by Eugene Ansah.

That would be the final kick of a ball on Wednesday night in Downtown West, City winning for the first time when they controlled possession. The win sees City jump out to a seven-point lead in the MLS Western Conference over LAFC who wasn’t in action on Wednesday.

City now heads west on I-70 to Children’s Mercy Park to take on Sporting Kansas City in what’s being dubbed the “Capital Classico”. A reference to both teams referring to their cities as the “Soccer Capital” of the US, and also a reference to earlier this season, when SKC sent a St. Louis City fan podcast a cease and desist order over their podcast once being named “Soccer Capital Podcast”.

City takes on SKC on the Kansas side of Kansas City Saturday night, with kickoff just after 7:30 p.m.

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