St. Louis City hope to start strong in playoff debut vs. Sporting KC

League: MLS

Posted on: 29 Oct, 2023 at 12:11 AM

Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

After a stellar regular season that included claiming the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, expansion St. Louis City have their sights on a deep playoff run, beginning with Sunday night's match against visiting Sporting Kansas City in the best-of-three first-round series.

St. Louis City went 11-4-2 at home, including two victories over Sporting Kansas City -- 4-0 on May 20 and 4-1 on Sept. 30. In the lone matchup in Kansas City, Kan., Sporting KC won 2-1 on Sept. 2.

Samuel Adeniran, Joao Klauss and Indiana Vassilev each scored two goals for St. Louis City against Sporting KC this season.

St. Louis coach Bradley Carnell said there are no secrets between the two clubs.

"I don't think this game is as much about the tactical battle," Carnell said. "For sure, there will be shifts and moments and tweaks here and there, but I think it's about the willingness, the grit, the desire and the determination of what got us to where we are."

Klauss and Nicholas Gioacchini each scored 10 goals to lead St. Louis City, who ranked third in regular-season goals with 62.

Sporting Kansas City advanced to this round by beating the San Jose Earthquakes in Wednesday's wild-card match.

The teams played to a regulation 0-0 tie before Sporting KC outscored visiting San Jose 4-2 in a shootout.

Goalkeeper Tim Melia stopped a shot by San Jose star Cristian Espinoza in the first round to help set the tone. According to SKC, Melia is 5-0 in shootouts with the franchise and 7-0 in his professional career.

"I think Tim is the best I've ever been around ... in regards to penalty kicks," Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. "He's absolutely incredible. He just is."

Sporting Kansas City claimed the wild-card playoff spot on Decision Day on Oct. 21 with a 3-1 home victory over Minnesota United.

Sporting KC went winless in their first 10 matches of the season (0-7-3) before turning things around.

"This is crazy," said Daniel Salloi, who converted the clinching penalty kick against San Jose. "Honestly, I don't know what to think of this year because for 10 games we couldn't win a game. Now we're playing St. Louis in the playoffs and this is insane. I think there's not really pressure on us. We shouldn't be there in terms of the way we started."

Alan Pulido is SKC's leading goal scorer with 14.

Game 2 is slated for Nov. 5 with Sporting KC as the host. If necessary, Game 3 will be Nov. 11 in St. Louis.

--Field Level Media