(Editorial) – Much like last year, late May and early June will be busy for Saint Louis FC. The club has four games in 16 days starting on Wednesday with a rescheduled match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. They also host Minnesota United FC on June 1st for the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Fortunately, only one of their next five games is on the road.
Busy Schedule With Open Cup Will Test Saint Louis FC Depth
The good news for Saint Louis FC is that they are relatively healthy. Only three players were listed on the injury report for last game: Patrick Doody (out), Schillo Tshuma (questionable), and Ryan Thompson (questionable).
Doody is the most significant player who is injured, but Parker Maher has done well at left back in his place. He might not be as defensively sound, but his speed is a weapon out wide. He might not have Doody’s cross, but he’s been good in his second year professionally.
The club also has some more depth available, albeit with some untested pieces. In 2015, they had 28 players for the majority of the season (this excludes short term loans from the Chicago Fire). With two Academy player signings this week, they currently have 29 players on the roster. Including those two, only seven players on the active roster have no prior experience at the USL level or higher. Nearly half the roster in 2015 was in their first year as professional soccer players.
There are several positions for which players will be shuffled. Sam Fink, AJ Cochran, and James Musa have played nearly every minute at center back this year. Cochran and Musa are first and second in minutes played. When Musa has not played at center back, he has been in a holding midfielder role. It’s unclear how head coach Dale Schilly will replace and rotate these parts.
Chad Vandegriffe has yet to play in 2016 but was serviceable last year. Mitch Lurie could also see time. The key for Schilly will be managing minutes and playing good partnerships, especially at center back. Musa and Fink were great at times last year. Schilly might need a plan for a backup pairing that involves neither Musa or Fink.
When he’s not in there, Schilly will have some decent back up options. Vince Cicciarelli has scored three goals as a USL rookie and is doing it in all sorts of ways. Jameil Hardware and Jordan Roberts both scored their first goal of the season against AFC Cleveland in the U.S. Open Cup. Roberts looked very energetic in his first action of the year.
I’d still expect Hererra to be in the 18 for all four of these games. For this team to succeed, Schilly will have to spread the minutes effectively. At least one player who has yet to have a heroic moment will have to rise to the occasion. It should be a great test for the Saint Louis FC depth players.