CITY vs Kansas Recap- 9/2/23
By Cole Sutton
The "Boys in Red" took their first trip across state lines to pay their bitter rivals Sporting KC a visit at Children's Mercy Park this past Saturday in Kansas. While there were few bright spots on the field as City walked away with zero points in a 2-1 defeat, the constant noise and support from traveling fans was one of many examples of the togetherness and community the club is bringing to the St. Louis region.
Driving up I-70 on Saturday morning, you just couldn't help but notice the amount of City stickers on back windshields and bumpers. With each passing by you could feel the anticipation build more and more. This didn't stop once infiltrating enemy lines though.
Just walking around CMP before kickoff you saw so much City apparel it almost felt like a home match. Even after the final whistle, that feeling stuck with me. The sheer noise coming from the away end on Saturday vibrated throughout the entire stadium and could be heard quite clearly on the Apple TV broadcast.
Although the first away day to KC was a win for the fans, it was a tough performance to watch on the field. In the first of three matchups against Sporting it was clear that City were the better side, shutting out and embarrassing their rivals by a scoreline of 4-0. So what went wrong on Saturday that allowed SKC to even the season series at 1-1? Throughout this piece, I'm going to touch on the positives and negatives from City's most recent match in what I like to call: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
"Big Sam" has been on quite the rollercoaster ride since becoming a member of St. Louis City. The 6'5" striker began his season with the first team, appearing in five of their first seven matches before being loaned out to USL side San Antonio FC in late April. With the attacking duo of Joao Klauss and Niko Gioacchini, it looked like the roster simply wasn't in need of Adeniran's talents at the moment. This changed when Klauss' 10-14 day injury turned into a three-month absence.
The Houston native was recalled from his loan in July, earning his first MLS start on the road against San Jose. Adeniran took the opportunity and certainly made the most of it, netting two goals on three shots. Since then the towering striker has started 8 of the last 10 games and tallied two more goals.
His biggest so far this season came Saturday in KC, opening the scoring in the "I-70 Derby" at the 22nd minute mark. After receiving a high-arching pass into space from Indiana Vassilev, Adeniran drove towards Sporting GK Tim Melia and buried an astounding finish with his left foot right in front of the away end. The goal was Big Sam's sixth of the season which gave City their first (and only) lead of the night. Sadly, it did not last long.
Sporting answered with back-to-back goals to finish out the second half, going into the break with a 2-1 lead. Adeniran almost evened the contest with his second goal of the night shortly after play resumed, but the play was called back in the 51st minute because he was in a *slightly* offside position. The controversial call was one of many that City fans had questions on, including a possible handball in the City penalty area later on in the second half.
Although the scoreline didn't favor the visitors, Head Coach Bradley Carnell will have the tough decision going forward on how to only pick two strikers from the list of Klauss, Gio, and Adeniran. A "tough decision" that City fans are thrilled to have.
While most of the City starters held their own, there was one donning the infamous "City Red" that just wasn't up to par, midfielder Jared Stroud. The former Austin FC man has found himself in a bit of a cold stretch in terms of producing, notching only one goal (7/1 against Colorado) and zero assists in his last 14 appearances.
Stroud really struggled to make an impact defensively, allowing SKC attackers on the right side to flow right through him in attack. He certainly was no help on the offensive side of the ball either, only creating one shot that was off target. Despite having two subs in his back pocket, Carnell allowed the 27-year-old to play a full 90 minutes.
Although both were subbed on later, Rasmus Alm and Aziel Jackson both would've been higher on my preferred list for starting wingers. Newcomer Nokkvi Thorisson or "Thor" is also in better standing with me than Stroud, despite Saturday being his first MLS start.
With no mid-week match this week to throw off minutes and squad rotation, will we see Stroud sent to the bench for a more productive winger?
The Entire Backline
Being at the game live, I can say there was never one moment after the Adeniran opening goal that I felt City's lead was safe. The ever-revolving back-four for STL looked like Swiss Cheese with countless openings caused by either lack of awareness or poor positioning. I think it was both! I remember leaning over to the person next to me saying "They're about to give one up, I can just feel it" shortly before the first of KC's Alan Pulido's two goals. If you watched the match, especially the first half, you know that wasn't necessarily a bold prediction.
Sporting absolutely ripped through City defenders on numerous occasions, really shifting the pressure onto MLS All-Star GK Roman Burki to keep the game within reach for City. You can tell this also by looking at the match facts. SKC had a lion's share of the possession at 58%, 10 shot attempts (eight for City), six shots on goal (two for City) with Burki making four saves compared to Melia only needing to make one.
While I would like to highlight each of the poor performances throughout the backline, the one that stood out to me the most was Kyle Hiebert.
Hiebert began the season as a center back while Joakim Nilsson was sidelined with an injury. After a couple of disappointing showings from Hiebert mixed with the quality of play from Lucas Bartlett, Carnell and co. decided to move the former Missouri State Bear out wide in hopes of providing more stability on the wing.
I'm not sure about other City fans, but I'm ready to see an end to the Hiebert playing wing back "experiment." It's quite obvious that Hiebert is used to relying on his fellow CB's to make up for his poor decision making and positioning. Countless KC players taking him one-on-one and beating him off the dribble, playing through balls right around him into attacking areas, I could go on and on.
While he was a great plug-in starter at the beginning of the season due to injuries, I believe that Hiebert is more of a bench/depth piece at any position rather than someone who deserves a starting spot.
Finally, even after the disappointing loss, City are still six points clear of Seattle in the Western Conference which I can confidently say no one saw coming. From the beginning of the year just begging for a watchable product, we're now crunching the numbers on how many points are needed to clinch a playoff spot.
With only seven regular season games left, this season has been one that I will never forget. Old and new, causal or die-hard, this team has been a rallying cry for every type of fan throughout the St. Louis area who travel Downtown to support their "Boys in Red."
Although each of those games will count the same in terms of points and playoff contention, we all know that the rubber match against Sporting KC on 9/30 will be the rowdiest crowd CityPark has seen yet… until the playoffs begin.