Austin was buzzing Saturday night.
But it wasn’t Austin FC who translated the energy into victory. St. Louis SC would thrive off the opportunity to establish their identity immediately in Major League Soccer, despite a few nervy moments.
Austin FC had to make an early change when Julio Cascante left the field with an apparent adductor injury, and was replaced by St. Louis native Kipp Keller. Immediately after, Indiana Vassilev went down on a physical but clean challenge that resulted in what certainly looked like a broken nose. Njabulo Blom would make his St. Louis City SC debut to replace Vassilev shortly thereafter.
When the dust (and nerves) settled, we saw the first bit of open-play danger from Joao Klauss with a subtle flick that resulted in a corner kick, but an overcommitment of players meant Tomas Ostrak opened City’s booking account with a professional foul to slow down the rapid counterattack.
It would be central defender Tim Parker who etched himself into City history in the 24th minute with the first goal on a hard-nosed header from an Eduard Lowen corner kick that set the physicality tone for the entire match.
City thought they had two in the 44th minute, but a call by the official took a beautiful Jared Stroud curler from outside the box off the scoresheet. The team maintained pressure into stoppage time, attempting to put a bow on what was a beautiful first half.
Both sides emerged from the tunnel unchanged for the second half, and Austin FC found their first opportunity in the 52nd minute as Zan Kolmanic found a corner kick at his feet on top of the box, but his shot went well right of the goal. Just three minutes later, Gyasi Zardes missed an opportunity inside the six-yard box that skittered away for a St. Louis City SC throw in.
Rasmus Alm designed City’s first rapid counter-attack of the game with an attempted backheel to Ostrak, but Austin FC covered the play and the attack fizzled out with a lackluster shot.
In the 59th minute, Nicholas Gioacchini and Miguel Perez respectively replaced Alm and Ostrak. Perez debuting in his first opportunity carried additional meaning for the city of St. Louis as one of the club’s first two homegrown talents to sign a senior contract.
Austin asserted dominance in the first 20 minutes of the second half, feeling out the weaknesses of a St. Louis City SC squad still developing rapport with one another. Even Burki continued to show nerves, making a few questionable decisions as the match progressed.
Things had the potential to get heated in the 68th minute when Klauss found himself on the ground following an elbow to the groin from just-subbed-on Jon Gallagher in a City pre-free kick shuffle (Gallagher replaced Kolmanic). Both teams turned the physicality up a notch from then on, with unnecessary fouls dictating the next few minutes of play.
Austin FC took the lead in the 72nd minute, with Diego Fagundez assisting Gallagher in a beautiful link-up to break the City back line inside the box. From then on, you could see the frustration in City’s play as they struggled against a team with better chemistry.
Alexander Ring replaced Owen Wolff and Ethan Finlay replaced Fagundez in the 75th minute, helping Austin secure their hold on the match. City would not go quietly, with a team effort resulting in a dangerous opportunity in the 76th minute. Still, the 2-1 scoreline held as the opportunity went wide for a goal kick on Stroud’s rebound effort.
Another chance would present itself to Stroud in a befuddling play immediately following, and he converted. Keller inexplicably played a ball directly to Stroud, who was completely open in the box. He converted to bring life to St. Louis City SC, leveling the match at 2-2 in the 78th minute.
Play tightened up following such an undisciplined goal, and City replaced Stroud with Celio Pompeu to introduce some fresh legs, and Klauss would finally have his day with a beautiful counter attack, executing a fantastic cutback and finding the far post in the 86th minute for St. Louis City SC to retake the lead.
It would be a costly goal as Klauss had to go off the pitch with an injury and a smile on his face, and the season-prior CITY2 Captain Josh Yaro made his debut to bolster the defense in the waning minutes of the match.
Five minutes of added time crawled by for St. Louis as they parked the bus, and a Driussi header rang off the crossbar in the final minute, showing just how close this match was throughout. Burki secured the ball a few seconds later, and iced the match to give St. Louis City SC its first victory in its very first attempt.
Man of the Match: Jared Stroud. He was an orchestrator throughout the match, and earned a poacher’s goal to draw City level at a critical point, breathing life into a team that always could win, but desperately needed a spark in that moment.
Next Match: HOME Charlotte FC, March 4
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