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Sporting KC v St Louis City (Game One): Playoff Preview & Predictions

It’s the first of three potential games between Sporting KC and St. Louis City SC in the 2023 MLS Playoffs. Let us get you ready!

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Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting KC @ St. Louis City SC

When: Sunday, October 29, 2023 at 9:00 PM CT (9:25 kickoff)

Where: CITYPARK

How to Watch/Stream: Apple MLS Season Pass
NOTE: Game one is free, two and three are behind the paywall

Somehow, despite all the odds, Sporting Kansas City are alive and well and moving on in the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. They’ve overcome the worst start in MLS history that later ended with a team making the (expanded) playoffs. They’ve essentially been playing soccer for at least the last few weeks, and it could be argued for longer than that. They were in do-or-die situations against Real Salt Lake (on the road) and Minnesota United and they got the job done.

They played in the newly formed Wild Card round against the San Jose Earthquakes and they won a penalty kick shootout to advance. Their reward? A potential three-game series with cross-state rivals St. Louis City SC. The one seed versus the eight seed. And no one outside of the team and it’s fan base, seemingly believes in them.

And why would they? In three previous meetings, Sporting KC have absolutely struggled against their new rival. Speaking of those prior three meetings, the home team is undefeated. If it was an aggregate goal series, St. Louis is up 9-3 overall and 8-1 at home. Let us remind you of our immediate, emotional reactions:

Seemingly, the pressure is all on St. Louis. They are the one seed. They dominated Kansas City in both their wins and hung close in their lone loss. After the Earthquakes game, Daniel Salloi echoed the same sentiment.

“For 10 games we couldn’t win a game and now we’re playing St. Louis in the playoffs conference semifinal,” started Salloi. “This is insane. I think, there is not really pressure on us. We shouldn’t be there, in terms of the way we started. We shouldn’t be there. But we’re there.”

St. Louis City’s Recent Form

  • Sept 20th vs. LAFC – 0-0 Draw
  • Sept 23rd @ Minnesota United – 2-1 Win
  • Sept 30th vs. Sporting KC – 4-1 Win
  • Oct 4th @ Vancouver Whitecaps – 0-3 Loss
  • Oct 21st vs. Seattle Sounders – 0-2 Loss

If we stretch it back further, St. Louis are just 2-3-3 in their last eight. When that’s compared to Sporting KC, the eight seed has been playing a bit better. Not counting the playoffs, SKC are 5-3-0. Adding in the San Jose game, that’s technically a draw that was won in penalty kicks. But it can’t be ignored, one of those three losses is to St. Louis. Then again, one of the five wins is against St. Louis.

What’s new for St. Louis?

Nothing. The last meeting between these clubs was after the roster freeze date.

IN: None

OUT: None

Injury/Availability Report

This section will be updated, again. At 5:30 on Friday the injury report for KC was added. I still haven’t seen the St. Louis report.

Sporting KC:

St. Louis:

  • OUT – None
  • QUESTIONABLE – None

Suspensions

Yellow card accumulation in the 2023 playoffs is three cards to lead to a suspension. The cards reset in the conference finals.

Sporting KC: None

  • Suspended Next Yellow Card: None
  • Total Yellow Cards: Andreu Fontas (1)

On the first I swear Davis was called, but the record books say Fontas.

St. Louis: None

  • Suspended Next Yellow Card: None
  • Total Yellow Cards: None

Stats

Sporting KC

Goals: Alan Pulido (14), Johnny Russell (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Erik Thommy (5), Gadi Kinda, Willy Agada (3), Dany Rosero, Remi Walter (2), Felipe Hernandez, Robert Castellanos, Khiry Shelton (1)

Assists: Erik Thommy (11), Daniel Salloi (9), Gadi Kinda, Remi Walter (4), Tim Leibold, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Nemanja Radoja (3), Jake Davis, Roger Espinoza (2), Marinos Tzionis, Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Robert Voloder, Logan Ndenbe (1)

St. Louis

Goals: Joao Klauss, Niko Gioacchini (10), Sam Adeniran (8), Eduard Lowen (6), Jared Stroud (5), Tim Parker (4), Rasmus Alm, Tomas Ostrak (3), Kyle Hiebert, Indiana Vassilev (2), six with one (1)

Assists: Lowen (14), Stroud, Vassilev (5), Alm, Klauss, Aziel Jackson, (4), Jake Nerwinski, Ostrak, Celio Pompeu (2), seven with one (1)

Referee Assignment

REF: Ted Unkel
AR1: Cory Richardson
AR2: Ryan Graves
4TH: Sergii Boiko
VAR: Daniel Radford
AVAR: Kyle Atkins

Predictions

It’s hard not to look at the past and project it onto the future. St. Louis City are 2-0-0 against Kansas City at CITYPARK. And it wasn’t really close. SKC lost by a cumulative 8-1 score over those two games. I’d argue, the first game on short rest should have a bit of an asterisk on it. Chris Penso officiated an absolutely terrible game and had an outsized impact on the final result. Then again, SKC will again enter this game on short rest. And deservedly so, the team with the first-place finish should have an advantage.

Speaking of short rest games, Sporting KC have been pretty bad. A few weeks ago, they were 2-7-4, but they’ve won* two straight short rest games (*technically the San Jose game is a draw, but they won in PKs to advance).

In the second regular season game on the road at St. Louis, Sporting KC still lost 4-1 and it’s hard to argue it’s anyone’s fault but their own (though there were some questionable non-calls). It was a really close game until it wasn’t. Kansas City competed well and then over 12 minutes they melted down. STL grinded KC to dust, and then it looked like they quit.

Sporting Kansas City were looking a little fatigued by the end of the San Jose game. With just three days between games, I’d hope Peter Vermes doesn’t run out the same lineup for a third time in nine days. Instead, I’d like to see some rotation and some tactical changes by perhaps playing against the ball. SKC’s traditional style hasn’t worked against St. Louis. However, I suspect Peter Vermes will play a similar lineup and the game has the potential to get out of hand.

With it being the playoffs, I’ll assume everything tightens up a bit. KC are absolutely capable of beating their rivals, and we’ve been saying all year St. Louis need to come back down to earth.

And if SKC can get to penalty kicks, anything can happen. Tim Melia is a brick wall in net and is one of, if not, the best PK stoppers in MLS history. On the other side, Roman Burki has been the best keeper in MLS this year. But in regular season play, he doesn’t stop PKs. It’s a little better in shootouts.

After Sunday, it’s basically a week between games the rest of the way, so no need to panic.

PREDICTION: 2-1 St. Louis Win

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