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The Internationals

Make your own luck, they say. Pfannensteil and Carnell have responded, “challenge accepted.”

And it’s delivered in spades. Hard work is rewarded in St. Louis. That much has been clear from St. Louis City SC’s historic five victories in its first five matches. The “gift goal” narrative that followed the team after its first two matches against Austin and Charlotte has been turned on its head - now, when the entire league watches St. Louis, they expect weird goals, because City simply works hard enough to earn them.

But club leadership will inevitably pass the credit on to those who make it possible each Saturday - the players themselves. And they aren’t just being rewarded on the St. Louis pitch. Three players have earned the opportunity to represent their countries in international play. While we miss each of them, it’s a mark of great scouting, great coaching, and great performances that they will be absent.

Let’s start in the back and work our way forward.

Kyle Hiebert

Hiebert received his first Canada call-up this spring, but the La Salle, Manitoba native’s path to the squad was far from smooth. After being quickly identified as a promising talent in the Canadian club system, Hiebert joined the Missouri State Bears men’s program in 2015 with high expectations for himself.

However, injuries would leave him on the sidelines for his first two years, taking two redshirts to finally debut in 2017. He finally scored his debut goal against my alma mater Valparaiso University that season, and went on to have an accolade-filled career for the Bears.

Hiebert entered the 2022 Super Draft, but was passed over by every MLS team. In February of 2022, he signed a contract with CITY2 as part of the first season of MLS Next Pro. While it wasn’t the contract he wanted, it would prove fruitful as he played every match for CITY2, and earned a spot on the MLS Next Pro Best XI for the season.

Hiebert’s stellar 2022 alongside Joakim Nilsson’s knee surgery in January allowed Hiebert to start every match so far for St. Louis City SC, and Hiebert has proved to City and his nation why he is one worthy of his country’s badge.

Njabulo Blom

Blom is the one international call-up whose elevation was not primarily earned in St. Louis. Having joined City in December from Kaiser Chiefs FC, Blom earned his first call-up for his native South Africa in 2021. His 2023 invitation should have been business as usual until a rough bout of Covid kept him stateside.

Blom’s career up until City was with Kaiser Chiefs FC in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was there where he met City helmsman Bradley Carnell, himself a South Africa national team veteran. Blom joined the club in 2014, leaving his youth club of Zondi Bay United to add to the ranks of one of South Africa’s premier football clubs. He worked his way through their academy ranks until he officially joined the senior roster in 2019.

Across the past two complete seasons, he recorded 73 appearances in all competitions and assisted eight goals in the same window. His high defensive workrate and on-field intelligence were what earned his first international call-up, and with his contract set to expire in June 2023, he and his family decided it was the right time for him to explore a new challenge by joining St. Louis City SC.

Miguel Perez

The second-youngest member listed as a part of St. Louis City SC’s senior squad, 17-year-old Miguel Perez spends his weekdays in classes at Pattonville High School in addition to his training sessions with the club.

One of St. Louis City SC’s first Homegrown contracts, Perez is building a fairytale beginning for himself. A product of JB Marine Academy, St. Louis Scott Gallagher, and the Olympic Development Program, Perez was one of the earliest contributors to City at every level. His standout performances with the Academy (as its first-ever goal scorer), CITY2, and the senior squad’s preseason made it clear to club leadership that he needed to be secured on a three-year contract with two extension options. He has hit the ground running with the senior squad, already recording impact performances as a part of CIty’s historic MLS debut.

Of course, his efforts and performances didn’t just impress City. On March 17, he earned his first-ever international call-up to the United States U-19 national squad. Perez, just a fledgling talent, has a bright future ahead of him, and in a short amount of time has demonstrated why the expectations of his career should be very, very high.

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