(Editorial) – Saint Louis FC knew going into the 2015-16 off-season that striker was their primary weakness. Injuries were a big part of their issues at the position in their inaugural season, but the front office knew they had to make an impact signing or two. While the big attacking signing of the off-season was El Salvadorian Irvin Herrera, youngster Vince Cicciarelli has been making noise.
Youngster Vince Cicciarelli Earning His Stripes With Saint Louis FC
The 23-year-old has 3 goals in 180 minutes so far this season. He is tied for fourth in scoring in USL play and he’s done it in fewer minutes than any player with three or more goals. Louisville City FC’s Chandler Hoffman is leading the Golden Boot race so far with 6 goals in 389 minutes played. Hoffman is playing on a team that is higher up in the standings and has a lot more chemistry. Saint Louis FC is still figuring out their lineup and with all the changes from last year, it has taken some time for the offense to get on the same page. Still, Cicciarelli has a higher goals/90 (1.5 to 1.34).
But it’s not just that the Notre Dame and SLU product is scoring, it’s how he’s scoring. Let’s break it down.
Cicciarelli made is USL debut on April 2nd at Orange County Blues FC. He came off the bench in the 62nd minute for Herrera. Drew Connor came off for Jamiel Hardware at that time. Saint Louis FC was now without arguably one of their most crucial attacking players in a 1-1 game.
Saint Louis FC gets the ball into the final third off a goal kick in the 89th minute. Cicciarelli pressures a defender into turning the ball over just outside the box. Hardware jumps on the ball. With his first touch, he lays the ball back to his forward and Cicciarelli fires it past the keeper.
Cicciarelli high pressed the back line in the dying moments of the game, showing his work rate. Once he sees that Hardware is going to get to the ball, he makes a run into open space knowing Hardware can find him. Then he gets his chance and makes the most of it. This play shows good positional awareness and composure on the finish.
Saint Louis FC would get an insurance goal in stoppage time. The ball turns over in the midfield. Cicciarelli heads the ball to Mike Ambersley. The veteran takes a touch to control then delivers an effortless through ball to Cicciarelli, who’s already off to the races. The kid blows by the entire back line, runs in on goal, and slots the ball between the keeper’s legs to take a 3-1 lead.
Cicciarelli made a simple play on the header to Ambersley to keep possession. He immediately moves forward to give Ambersley an out. Once he sees that Ambersley is going to pass back to him, he accelerates, getting to the ball in stride and past the defense. He showed his speed on this play and again instantly recognized what a teammate was going to do with the ball and adjusted accordingly.
OC Blues are off to a bit of a rough start in 2016. Cicciarelli came off the bench, so his fresh legs might have been a factor on the goal. Still, 2 goals in a 24 minutes USL debut is about as good as it gets for a second year pro.
The 6’2″ forward made his first start of the season on April 9th at OKC Energy. Cicciarelli scored in the first half on a set piece. A.J. Cochran takes a corner, delivering an in-swinging corner to the far post. Cicciarelli makes a run and beats his mark to the ball, stretching to get a touch. The ball ends up going in off his chest (torso?) and into the net.
This was Cicciarelli’s first goal off a set pieces. It was also his first goal that wasn’t scored with his left foot. This one might have been a bit of a lucky bounce, but you have to applaud the effort on the run and stretch in the air to make contact.
Cicciarelli has not scored or assisted on a goal since, but he did help create a good chance in the home opener against Tulsa Roughnecks FC. Cicciarelli is spread out wide to receive a pass. He runs onto it and picks his head up, noticing Ambersley at the top of the box. He delivers a great ball to find him, but Ambersley’s shot is well over the bar.
That was one of Saint Louis FC’s best chances of the match and Cicciarelli was the driving force that made it happen. The kid has scored goals in different ways and combined well with his teammates. He’s still a work-in-progress, but what more could you ask for a second year pro who played in the PDL last year?
The kid is scoring goals and creating chances for himself and his teammates. He has one of the better work rates on the team. Cicciarelli is earning his stripes and his playing time. The youngster is another weapon head coach Dale Schilly can bring off the bench or start.
For a team that missed the playoffs by 8 points last year, that could be huge.