CITY vs Chicago Fire: A New Chapter


By Cole Sutton

The bitter rivalry between St. Louis & Chicago added another chapter in its long history this past Saturday night at CITYPARK. For the first time since joining the MLS last season, the Chicago Fire made a trip to Market Street to square off against the Boys in Red. After knocking CITY out of the U.S. Open Cup last season, followed by a 1-0 loss in MLS play, the clash on Saturday gave a much-needed chance at revenge.

Some fans may not have even found their seat before CITY earned an early advantage thanks to Rasmus Alm who finished an incredible chance from outside the box, giving shades of Célio Pompeu's golazo against Austin earlier this season. The Swedish international found his way onto the scoresheet for the first time this season in only the second minute of action, giving St. Louis an early 1-0 advantage. At only the 1:24 mark, the goal was the fastest in CITY SC's young history and the second time the club has netted a goal in the first two minutes this season.

Any fan can see the positive impact that Alm brings to the pitch with his high work rate covering lots of ground, but what do the numbers say? St. Louis is 15-7-8 all-time when Alm either starts or enters the match, which validates my thoughts that the duo of Pompeu and Alm out on the flanks has way bigger of an impact than some may see just looking at the box score.

Speaking of Célio, the Brazilian had another incredible showing on Saturday after signing a new contract extension with the club earlier this season. From CITY2 in MLS Next Pro to becoming a solidified first-team starter, Pompeu has become a fan favorite in St. Louis. Whether it's his bright smile & attitude off the pitch, or his incredible skills with the ball at his feet, you've got to be thrilled seeing how far the midfielder has come in the Red Bull style system Carnell is known for. Pompeu along with Chris Durkin & Tomáš Ostrák bagged their second assists of the season Saturday night.

Similar to CITY at the beginning of the contest, Chicago's Hugo Cuypers brought the Fire level a minute into the second half with a beautiful first-touch volley that knotted the game at 1-1. A cross from CITY's left to right gets headed back into the area, somehow falling directly to Cuypers' feet. Despite Tim Parker closing in quickly, the Chicago attacker handled the pressure well and buried the chance past Roman Bürki who continues to prove he's worth every penny of his sizeable contract.

St. Louis did not slow down despite losing their lead, creating lots of pressure in the final third and creating a few chances that looked to be dangerous for Chicago's young goalkeeper Chris Brady. The Boys in Red finally broke through in the 56th minute thanks to their leading scorer João Klauss.

After a foul on Célio near the half line, wing-back Anthony Markanich did a great job at taking the free kick quickly, sending the ball down the sideline for Pompeu to chase in behind. The Brazilian winger made his way past a Chicago defender using incredible skill with the ball at his feet, even fighting through the defender grabbing a handful of his jersey in the penalty area. Just as the ball was about to go behind for a goal kick, Célio cut back behind the defender and found his fellow countryman Klauss alone in the box. CITY's #9 was calm and collected per usual and flicked on a chance towards goal which erupted the North End. Pompeu talked about what he saw on the play and his connection with Klauss at the postgame press conference.

"Yeah, I took one-v-one, you know, the thing that I like, I'm wide on the left. So, I just did my thing, dribble, and then I cut it. And then I see that we were practicing a lot of entry in the box, so I knew some players would be there," said Pompeu. "And then I saw Klauss, and then thanks to him and his good finish, he put the ball in the back of the net. So, it was very good. And yeah, good for him too. He got two good goals, good 'number nine' goals. So, I'm very happy for him."

Klauss wasn't done there, adding a much-needed insurance goal in the 67th minute to seal the 3-1 victory. Thanks to a beautiful cross in from Durkin, "Santa Klauss" was all alone at the far post for an easy leaping header that found its way past Brady. The 27-year-old striker bagged his team-leading fourth and fifth goals of the season, all coming in the last seven matches. The second-half brace was Klauss' second with St. Louis.

From there, some defensive-minded substitutions from Carnell like bringing on Joakim Nilsson and Hosei Kijima allowed CITY to drop back and force Chicago to attempt to find space in their attack. The Fire were unable to truly test St. Louis' backline and Bürki between the posts, meaning the contest finished at 3-1 in favor of the Boys in Red.

Home-field advantage has played a major role in CITY's success with the club extending its unbeaten streak at CITYPARK this season, moving to 3-0-3 at home in league play and 4-0-3 across all competitions. St. Louis is now unbeaten in its last five matches and is one of only three teams that has not lost a match at home in 2024. Across 14 all-time wins at home, CITY has scored three or more goals in ten of those contests.

After putting three past Chicago, St. Louis has recorded their 14th match with three or more goals since joining the league in 2023, the most in MLS over that span. Since their first MLS match at Austin back in late February of last year, CITY is 13-0-2 when scoring at least three across all competitions. Lastly, following the Columbus Crew's 2-1 loss to FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, the Boys in Red are the only team in MLS with just one loss.

Head Coach Bradley Carnell began the postgame presser with his thoughts on the 3-1 win and returning home to CITYPARK.

"Great to be back at CITYPARK. I think there's a certain buzz and an energy in this stadium and a certain enjoyment and how we like to play. I thought it was a very controlled performance, bar the goal we conceded just after halftime," Carnell said. "But very happy with the way that we continued to apply the principles, to apply the game plan, and very happy to have a response when we go concede the equalizer. So credit to the boys. Very happy about this, a very important three points, and this hopefully kicks off for a good stretch here at CITYPARK over the next couple of weeks."

The victory on Saturday begins a tough stretch of schedule for CITY. With a mid-week clash against MLS powerhouse LAFC on Wednesday followed by a Saturday matchup against a tough FC Cincinnati team. This means St. Louis will play three games in eight days, something to consider if Carnell and company make any lineup changes or players pick up any new injuries.