Fans are used to strange things happening in MLS. Odd calls, peculiar weather, ghost transfers. But St. Louis City have had a week that even Don Garber would call weird. And it ain’t over yet as we get one more Chicago Fire v St Louis City match on Saturday. So let’s dig in.
It’s Been a Weird Week for St. Louis City
Or it will have been weird by the time they take the pitch on Saturday in Chicago. For starters, St. Louis City will be kicking off Saturday’s match earlier than any other game in their entire MLS history (which, admittedly, is only ten games and nothing compared to some of the games in the bubble – remember that? – but still). Kickoff is scheduled for 12:09 at Soldier Field, so, you know, put an alert in your phone to switch over from the Premier League so you don’t miss it.
Then you’ve got the fact that these two teams will play each other twice in five games, despite never having faced each other before this week. So that’s weird. In two different stadiums. Also weird. Then there’s the fact that while all this was going on, St. Louis City’s match against LAFC, which was supposed to happen at the end of this month was moved to July because LA beat the Philadelphia Union to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League final (which created a scheduling conflict). And while that’s not unheard of in soccer, it does mean that St. Louis City can look forward to a July week in which they will have to play back-to-back games at BMO arenas, four days and 2500 miles apart (July 8th at BMO Field in Toronto, July 12th at BMO stadium in LA). Weeeeeeird.
But perhaps the weirdest thing about this week is that, sort of technically, St Louis City is still in the middle of their game against Dallas from last Saturday. Because that scoreless draw was postponed at the 50-minute mark by what the authorities were officially calling “inclement weather”.
Weird, weirder, weirdest.
So with all that as context, what can fans really expect out of the team?
Let’s Look at Some Numbers
As of this writing, the Moneyline at DraftKings is Chicago Fire -110, Draw +265, St Louis +260, and the DNB is Chicago Fire -220, St. Louis City +175. So either way you slice it, they expect St. Louis City to lose. But why? ESPN’s power rankings has St. Louis at sixth (which is where they were last week) and Chicago at 23rd (which is five slots lower than they were on May 1st.) Meanwhile, MLSSoccer.com’s Power Rankings has St. Louis City at eighth and the Fire at 24th which is hardly any better from Chicago’s perspective. So what gives? What do the gamblers believe that the sportswriters don’t? Well…
READ MORE: What Does It Mean That St. Louis City Lost
Well, Chicago has a new coach. Sort of. After sacking Ezra Hendrickson midweek, the team elevated assistant Frank Klopas who coached the team over a decade ago. So perhaps the gamblers are expecting a “new manager bounce” to have an impact on the match. That, combined with the fact that the Fire have already beaten St. Louis once this week, AND that the Fire are playing at home (their real home, Soldier Field, not Seat Geek Stadium in Bridgeview, which, actually was their old home when it was called Toyota Park. Weird, right?). Maybe they think all that adds up to tip the scales in Chicago’s favor. Perhaps.
Joao Klauss is still injured for St. Louis, which means the attack will continue to suffer. The team hasn’t scored more than one goal since the “tornado match” against Cincinnati on April 15th.
— St Louis CITY SC (@stlCITYsc) May 10, 2023
On Tuesday, they scored a late goal in the Open Cup match. Last week, they were scoreless in the half-match v. Dallas. The week before, one goal was scored against Portland. The week before that? One goal against Colorado. And while they do lead the league in goals scored with 22, and have eight players not named Klauss who have found the back of the net, one can’t help but feel that the recent dry spell and the absence of the Brazilian are not coincidental.
Not only does Klauss score goals, but he also draws defenders to him, opening up space for players like Jared Stroud and Nicholas Gioacchini. With Klauss out of the lineup, those spaces don’t exist, and the attack grinds to a halt. This gives Chicago the opportunity to put 11 men behind the ball – like they did after scoring early in the Open Cup against St. Louis on Tuesday – and take advantage of counterattacks and the odd mistake (which they also did on Tuesday).
— St Louis CITY SC (@stlCITYsc) May 10, 2023
There’s one more factoid that will probably have a fairly large impact on the match and it’s this – Tim Parker won’t be playing because of yellow card accumulation. Parker not only keeps the back line focused and disciplined, but he’s also a scoring threat on corners. The absence of him AND Klauss against a side that has already beaten them once this week, now playing in their real home stadium (Soldier Field), is probably why St. Louis are underdogs on Saturday.
But hey, they’ve been underdogs all season. And Chicago have slightly more than half as many goals as St Louis City and have only scored more than one goal in a match once since March (and that was against a Philadelphia Union side that had played a midweek fixture in Guatemala before flying to the Windy City. So they could easily steal a point).
Which wouldn’t be weird at all.
Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports on May 9, 2023, of a Jared Stroud Headshot and a Brian Gutierrez Headshot.