ST. LOUIS - In January, St. Louis City SC signed head coach Bradley Carnell to a contract extension. At the time, Sporting Director Lutz Pfannenstiel said that Carnell “over delivered every step of the way.”

Get The Latest News!

Don't miss our top stories and need-to-know news everyday in your inbox.

Today, July 1st, the club announced they were parting ways with Carnell, and that technical director and former CITY2 coach John Hackworth would be stepping in as an interim head coach for the rest of 2024.

Obviously, things have not gone to plan for Carnell and City in 2024. The surprising No. 1 seed from the MLS Western Conference in 2023 have been a shell of their former selves, and sit in 12th in the conference and 26th overall out of 29 MLS franchises.

Wins and points have been difficult to come by in City’s second season. The club sits at 3-7-10, (three wins, seven losses, ten draws) and is nine points off playoff qualification in a league where 18 of 29 teams make the postseason.

“Given Bradley’s many contributions to the club, this was not an easy decision,” said CITY SC Sporting Director Lutz Pfannenstiel, in a press release Monday morning. “Unfortunately, based on our Year 2 results to date, we believe a coaching change is in the best interest of the club as we regroup and look to improve both our performance and our results.”

“We don’t make these decisions based on a very short run,” said City General Manager Diego Gigliani in a team press conference Monday afternoon. “We’re 20 games into the season, and you could even go back a little bit more into [bad results from] the last stretch of last season.

“All the time we’re looking at what we’re seeing on the pitch, but also what we’re seeing off the pitch and trying to make those judgment calls of when the right moment comes to make a change, if change is needed at all. I think [change is] based on the results especially, but then do we have confidence in believing in the process and just giving everything more time, or do we think this requires a bigger change to cause more of a mental reset and a full reset amongst the team?”

“In this case, 20 games in (this MLS season) is when we felt that moment had arrived. We are also hopefully at the end of a pretty difficult string of matches. Nine games in a row with no wins, three points out of a possible 27 points in the last nine games is a bad, bad thought. So I think this feels like the moment where the decision had to be taken.”

“At the same time, we are encouraged by the thought that we have 14 games to go. This isn’t poor form with five games to go, this is poor form with 14 games to go, that’s more than 40 percent of the schedule still pending. That’s why we thought this was the right moment, thinking about the past 20 games and especially the last nine, but also the opportunity to course-correct and get to where we want to be, which is to qualify for the playoffs.”

While performances and results have been lacking, Carnell has had to fight with one hand tied behind his back in 2024 thanks to a rash of injuries that have plagued the team. Multiple players proven to be difference makers, like Tomas Ostrak and Celio Pompeu, went from making names for themselves to having season-ending injuries.

Saturday’s lineup in Vancouver had no recognized center backs playing defense due to injuries to multiple members of City’s back line, and the prolonged absence of Kyle Hiebert on Copa America duty with Canada forced a peculiar starting lineup.

Pfannenstiel still expects results, regardless of the availability of the roster.

Article continues after sponsor message

“We did have injuries, no doubt, but we had injuries last year as well,” said Pfannenstiel on Monday. “Last year we had players out like [Joao] Klauss, [Eduard] Löwen and [Joakim] Nilsson at the same time and we still won enough games.”

“So just injuries over the past few games, that was not the pure reason. I think we had a lot more games than a few where we were not too happy with the outcome, and that’s something we have to deal with. But we have a transfer period coming up, we can still rectify things and get things going our way. That’s the responsibility I have to take, to sign players who will work out after the transfer window, and to look forward.”

Despite Pfannenstiel’s comments about bad results over an extended run ultimately being the reason for Carnell’s dismissal, he also stated that had City had won Saturday, Carnell would still be manager of City today.

“If we win on Saturday night, Bradley would still be the coach today,” confirmed Pfannenstiel when asked if Saturday’s result, where City blew a 2-0 lead and ultimately lost 4-3, affected the decision to relieve Carnell today.

But even if a win on the road Saturday would have kept Carnell in the job, it seems the writing was on the wall based on the responses from Pfannenstiel and Gigliani in Monday’s presser.

Seemingly it was more a matter of “when” than “if” Carnell would be let go, given how things have trended in 2024. City ultimately decided they had to act now to try and salvage the rest of the MLS season.

“There were lots of things we looked at that are different from last year, and not every year will be the same,” said Pfannenstiel. “At the end of the day, we have a goal to go for… We want to fight, we want to grind, we still believe in us and we want to make the playoffs. It was time for us to make that decision.”

Importantly, Carnell leaving City does not change the style, the model, or City’s philosophy in any way. Hackworth has been a part of the club since 2022, he’s been a technical director for the team over the past season and a half, and the message stays the same even though it will be coming from a new voice.

“We have a playing style, we have a philosophy, we have an identity, they will not be thrown out of the window now,” Pfannenstiel explained. “That was a clear decision made very early on, how we define ourselves on the field and off the field.”

“We do still want to play a high intensity pressing game, that will not change. That handwriting will stay, and that’s exactly the profile we will look for again… That’s why we put John Hackworth in charge as an interim head coach. We will definitely analyze the coaching market and see what’s best out there for us.”

Over the 2024 season, Carnell’s handling of players came into question when Sam Adeniran was suddenly absent from matchday team sheets, with the then-City head coach saying Adeniran wasn’t being considered for matches seemingly based on commitment in training.

Over the past few games, Adeniran had been left out of the team in order for him to pursue a transfer or trade elsewhere. On Monday, after the announcement of Carnell’s firing, Adeniran was back on the training field with the first team, which seemed like a bit of a statement.

“There are still ongoing talks about a transfer or trade, but Sam is available for selection,” Pfannenstiel clarified on Monday. “There’s a transfer period coming up on the 18th, and [Adeniran] is a member of the team… We will see on Wednesday or Sunday in Colorado, how much or if he will be in the squad or if he will play. That’s something now for John Hackworth to decide.”

John Hackworth’s first game as interim head coach is Wednesday night, when St. Louis City SC hosts the San Jose Earthquakes in a battle at the bottom of the MLS Western Conference.

More like this:

May 4, 2024 - City Set For Houston Rematch, And A Bit Of Catching Up

Jun 30, 2024 - City Cough Up Early 2-0 Lead, Lose 4-3 In Vancouver

May 5, 2024 - City Stymied In Goalless Draw In Houston

Jul 8, 2024 - Roman B├╝rki Leaves Game With Injury, City Lose 4-1 In Colorado

Apr 21, 2024 - City Steals A Draw in Six-Goal Thriller Against Sporting Kansas City