(Editorial) – It hasn’t been a pretty season for Saint Louis FC. The same can be said for their MLS affiliate, the Chicago Fire. But with USL on the rise, and the partnership with MLS growing and developing, both these clubs are reaping the benefits. Their names are Patrick Doody and Alec Kann.
Kann is a young USL journeyman. He began his professional career with the Charleston Battery before being picked up by the Fire in 2013. Kann was loaned out to the Charlotte Eagles of the USL PDL in 2014. He was loaned out at the beginning of the season. Kann has 16 starts with the USL side, and has battled Mark Pais for minutes all season long.
Doody is a Chicago Fire Academy product. He signed a homegrown contract this past offseason. In training with the Fire, he primarily played at center back. Like Kann, he was loaned down to Saint Louis FC. He has spent the majority of this season with them, but has been called up to Chicago on a few occasions. Doody has made 18 appearances for Saint Louis FC and 3 with the Fire.
The benefit to this affiliation is not just that Kann and Doody got more playing time than they would have in Chicago. Both have shown noticeable development in 2015. Their evolution would not have been as significant were they warming the bench at Toyota Park. They’ve both become better players as a result.
Kann started the season just behind Pais and has split time with him throughout the year. Both have been excellent shot stoppers and are well rounded with no distinct weakness. They traded starts early in the season. Recently Kann has taken hold of the starting role. He’s started the last seven league matches for Saint Louis FC.
This year was critical for Kann because he got more playing time than previously as a professional. If he starts each of the remaining games on the schedule, he’ll have more caps in 2015 than he had his entire professional career prior. His communication with his backline has improved as the year has gone on and he’s been a rock in the back for his team.
Kann has no key weakness one can pinpoint in his play as a goalkeeper. He has yet to save a penalty kick this season however, though he has only faced a handful. That’s one area that he could improve on, his reputation as a PK stopper.
There is a strong argument both by the eye test and the stats that Kann is the MVP for Saint Louis FC this season. If he was in Chicago for the entire year, he rarely would have been in the 18, much less on the field. Sean Johnson has been the resident starter for Chicago for several years and Jon Busch was brought in specifically to back him up and provide a veteran presence. This year in USL gave Kann reps to work on his game and show that his quality.
Doody came in and immediately began starting at left back for Saint Louis. He has decent speed for being 6′ 0” tall and is a natural left back. He had some rough moments defending one-on-one early in the year, but improved as the season went on. Doody’s also been very popular with the fans. He even has his own fan club, fittingly named the Doody Crew.
While he does not overlap as much as the typical offensive fullback, he provided excellent service for his position and level of experience. Doody has two types of crosses. The first is a long distance lob, typical of a center back. It doesn’t stand out that much, but it’s another skill that adds value.
The other is a line drive that’s so good and consistent, that he’s been the primary corner and short free kick taker for Saint Louis FC. The ball never gets more than 5 ft over the bar and drops rapidly at the end. It’s perfect for getting the ball over a keeper and to a teammate at the far post. He would not have been able to develop this skill with Chicago. Even when he got a chance to come off the bench, with three DPs and Harrison Shipp, he would have been low on the set piece taking depth chart.
Doody still needs to work on consistency in every aspect of his game. He also has committed a few costly turnovers in the midfield at times this season. Still, his ability to stay compact defensively while providing a key piece to the offense be overstated. His line drive cross is valuable, and rare for a left back.
Kann and Doody are better than they were back in March. With Chicago’s backline leaking goals, positions could be up for grabs next season. Considering Doody’s skill set, he very much could be the first full back of the bench. He might even start. With Johnson playing as a former shell of himself and Busch getting up there in age, Kann could compete for minutes at the goalkeeper position.
At worst, they get loaned back down to USL for 2016 where they are locks in the Starting XI. They can take another year to develop their skills and become more consistent.
The Chicago Fire are getting two improved assets going into next year. Saint Louis FC got two major contributors to their team for almost a full season, possibly their MVP. Kann and Doody earned their stripes this season for Saint Louis FC, and they’re better professional soccer players for it.