CITY vs Sporting Kansas: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


By Cole Sutton

The newest chapter in the youngest rivalry in MLS was written at Children's Mercy Park on Saturday night, and boy did it deliver. The Boys in Red, accompanied by droves of traveling supporters, made the 250+ mile journey across state lines to take on Sporting Kansas at the furniture outlet. CITY looked to gain revenge after dropping both playoff matchups to SKC last season, and while St. Louis didn't walk away with all three points, the come-from-behind 3-3 draw felt as close to a win as you can get.

CITY will have to wait until the next clash with Sporting in July to avenge their abrupt ending to 2023's storybook inaugural season. That being said, the Allcaps had an incredible showing between the lines Saturday in a back-and-forth, intense match that seems to be the norm when these two clubs square off.

We look at the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly from CITY's 3-3 cardiac comeback:

The Good

João Klauss

João Klauss found his way onto the scoresheet for the second consecutive match with his 31st-minute equalizer against SKC. The Brazilian has three goals through nine MLS games and picked up his first assist of the campaign on Célio Pompeu's Goal of the Matchday contending finish right before the halftime break. Saturday night was the first time Klauss both scored and assisted in the same match dating back to CITY's 4-0 win against Real Salt Lake in March of 2023.

Carnell spoke on the Brazilian striker at the postgame presser.

"Well, I think you can see the trend and the curve line going over multiple weeks now in the right direction with Klauss, not just his work right now. Today, he's the creator, he's the finisher. And he's shown a lot through the weeks. So again, we know Klauss is a special player, we know he enjoys these types of games, and he gets up for these games," Carnell said. "But yeah, I think it's a normal curve for a guy who's finding his form, a guy who's confident, supportive of his teammates, and doing just about everything to win us the game, to put us in a position to win the game. So again, he's lasting 90 minutes, he's getting fitter, he's getting sharper, so I'm excited about his trajectory."

With Sam Adeniran's notable absence from the bench, the pressure is on Santa Klauss to not only make an impact on the match but have the stamina and resilience to play a full 90 minutes. The striker has played over 75 minutes in the last six matches and is a huge factor in CITY's attacking presence & implementing the high press that Bradley Carnell lives by. Klauss earned the highest FotMob rating out of all St. Louis performances with a 9.0 and finished with five total shots, two chances created, six passes into the final third, and 10 touches in the SKC box.

It was obvious after netting his first goal on Saturday that the 27-year-old's confidence and work ethic with the ball at his feet, and off-ball pressing after possession loss, had elevated to an even higher level than we're used to seeing. Although finishing chances has been a point of frustration for supporters, CITY hasn't dropped any points since their March 30th loss at Real Salt Lake. Hopefully with Klauss gaining some momentum and finding the scoresheet in two straight matches, the floodgates open up soon and other attackers join in on the fun.

Wingers (Pompeu/Alm)

Speaking of finding the scoresheet, Célio Pompeu bagged his third goal this year in spectacular fashion on Saturday night with a strike from outside the box to give St. Louis a 2-1 advantage going into halftime. The goal was his second in the last two matchups at Children's Mercy Park, dating back to the MLS playoffs last season when the 24-year-old scored CITY's sole playoff goal. Pompeu is a thrill to watch on the attack with the ball at his feet, totaling 75% successful dribbles (3-of-4) according to FotMob, along with three passes into the final third and two chances created. The left-winger has started in seven of nine MLS fixtures for St. Louis, and for me personally, has cemented himself as a regular starter on the left flank barring any injury or fitness issues.

The opposite side of CITY's midfield had been more of a question mark going into the 2024 campaign. With Rasmus Alm returning from injury in March fans have been eager to see his return to full fitness and catch a glimpse of that speed & constant energy that makes him so fun to watch. That work rate is also why Alm is so dangerous in Carnell's Red Bull system which emphasizes constant pressure on the opposition and speed on the counter-attack once possession is won.

The Swedish midfielder has now started the last three matches for St. Louis, resulting in a win and two draws. According to the club's game notes, the Boys in Red are 14-7-7 when Alm is on the field, and 8-3-3 when he starts. The 28-year-old speedster was credited with an assist on the Klauss goal Saturday night as well, the second match in a row where those two connected for a goal contribution. With no Sam Adeniran return looking likely anytime soon it seems like if both can stay healthy, Pompeu & Alm will be incredibly important to the Allcaps' scoring threat.

The Bad

The CB Duo of Parker/Hiebert

The rotating door of St. Louis center-backs continued this weekend as Joakim Nilsson and Josh Yaro were both unavailable due to injury. This means Kyle Hiebert, who was recently getting some minutes with CITY2, would be slotted into the starting lineup for the I-70 derby. Hiebert began the 2023 season starting at CB but would eventually move out wide to both the left and right back position where he struggled. The former Missouri State Bear started at CB for CITY's 1-0 victory last weekend against Austin FC and I thought he held his own with a decent performance. Saturday night though was a different story.

According to FotMob, Hiebert didn't record a single tackle and went 14% (1/7) on accurate long balls. The versatile defender went one-for-three on ground duels (he went 3/4 in the air to be transparent) and just never seemed to be in the right position to defend Sporting's counter-attack. The Canada international was constantly getting turned around trying to scramble back to position while also cutting off the opponent's passing lanes.

Although Tim Parker's energy and leadership on the pitch is crucial to the Boys in Red, the vice-captain also struggled on Saturday night. Parker and Hiebert were the lowest-rated players on the pitch (Hiebert: 5.7, Parker: 5.8) with "Timmy P" losing four duels including going 0/2 in aerial battles. Where the MLS journeyman excelled was in his "recoveries" where he totaled six, probably in part for having to assist his fellow defenders in clearing their lines.

On SKC's first goal in the 16th minute, fellow CB Tim Parker's turnover led to a break for the opposition who put on a display of one-touch passing that cut right through the St. Louis backline. Hiebert failed to put pressure on KC's Alan Pulido who began the attack, and instead of stepping up to either Sporting forward the 26-year-old just backpedaled too far into the middle of the pitch which gave the space for a one-two ball back to Pulido who buried the easy chance.

While no one could prevent Sporting Kansas' second goal which seemed to be a lapse in communication from CITY, the go-ahead goal for SKC in the 77th minute looked like one of the worst defensive lapses I've seen through nine league games. With both fullbacks keeping Erik Thommy onside, the Sporting attacker was somehow behind both Parker and Hiebert in the middle of the pitch. All it took was an overhead long-ball from SKC to provide Thommy an easy one-on-one with Roman Bürki who couldn't do much in this scenario. A collective sigh of frustration from St. Louis supporters who seemed to be on their way to another loss at the furniture outlet.

Despite the Allcaps fighting back to earn a point, the defensive play has to be a little troublesome for supporters. That being said, injuries and no consistency at CB are the main culprits for these issues. I believe once we're back to full strength with Nilsson paired in the starting lineup with Parker and an option of Yaro or Hiebert off the bench, we will see a lot more chemistry from the backline which can only help their performances going forward.


Sporting KC's Fanbase

I decided midway through the second half that the Cauldron and the "Blue Hell" would be in my Ugly category, so I was glad to see CITY battle back for a draw so I wouldn't be called salty or a sore loser. After attending Children's Mercy Park for the CITY game in 2023 or more recently interacting with Sporting fans during the Inter Miami game at Arrowhead, I just couldn't believe a club with so much history still didn't know how to act.

From the "I believe that we will win!" and "You can't do that!" chants that should've stayed in 2014, to the other corny "We want another one, just like the other one!" chant after a goal that instantly turns the entire park into elementary schoolers, I was just really amazed at how lackluster the Blue Hell aka Kansas "fans" were. Especially for a fanbase that so desperately wanted to be known as the "Soccer Capital of America" their lawyers got involved!

Not to mention the "F*** St. Louis!" chants, the "fans" leaving early, all the Red in the crowd, and Sporting fans' sad attempts to troll online. Speaking of, did everyone know that the Rams left St. Louis in 2016? KC sports fans love reminding you of that, even though most probably couldn't name the Chiefs' starting QB before Alex Smith, but I digress. Don't get me started on Chiefs fans!

While I don't have a rebuttal for Sporting's playoff success against us last season, St. Louis is now 2-1-1 against their rivals in the regular season, outscoring SKC by a margin of 13-5. Every matchup between these two clubs is absolutely electric despite only clashing six total times. While my blood pressure probably couldn't handle it, I'd love to see them face off every matchday.

Looking Ahead

The Boys in Red will have the upcoming weekend off before traveling to Houston (again) to face the Houston Dynamo for the third time this season. CITY can also gain revenge on Houston for knocking them out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup competition in the first round earlier in February.