Rivalry Week Preview: St. Louis SC v. Sporting KC

MLS: St. Louis CITY SC at Chicago Fire in MLS Rivalry Week

When one looks up the words “soccer coach” in the dictionary you see a picture of Peter Vermes. The jutting jaw, the gym teacher crew cut, the mouth perfectly formed to shout the words “nice shot princess; drop and give me fifty”. And for 14 years he’s roamed the sidelines of Sporting Kansas City as their quintessential soccer coach, enduring rivalry weeks contrived and otherwise, but more importantly, winning an MLS cup and three Open Cups on his way to notching the most wins by a coach with one team. Impressive.

Rivalry Week: The Battle for Missouri

Except this year has been brutal for Vermes and the team formerly known as the Wiz. They currently sit in 13th in the West, ten points behind St Louis City SC, despite having played one more match than their rivalry week partners. They’re a measly point above the hapless Galaxy, and they feature a shockingly uncharacteristic -8 goal differential – a fact that must make the former defender Vermes absolutely apoplectic. They were winless in both March and April and didn’t even score a goal until their fourth match of the season (Against FC Dallas. Which they lost. Oh well…). All of which led to chatter among people who chatted about stuff like this, that perhaps Vermes had overstayed his welcome and it was time for him to move on. Gasp!

Wait, I Thought This Was Supposed to Be About Rivalry Week, Not Sporting KC

Patience, sunshine. And its patience is paying off for Vermes and SKC. A draw on the road on Wednesday against LAFC – no mean feat. A win against Minnesota United and a win before that against the Seattle Sounders, again, on the road. In other words, they’ve earned 70% of their points this season in the past two weeks. Players are getting fit, goals are starting to come – and the chatter about looking for a new coach quiets down for a week.

Do I Have to Go Somewhere Else to Find Out What’s Going On With St. Louis City?

Well, one can, but frankly, we all know what problems face St. Louis City. Klauss is still out, which means the attack will undoubtedly struggle in the final third. They miss his ability to finish, but also (as someone brilliantly pointed out last week), they miss his ability to create space for his teammates when opposing defenders try to neutralize him. And without him in the lineup, not only does that space not exist, but you’ve also got St. Louis players trying to pick up the slack, which invariably means moving out of their natural positions, which creates gaps in the St. Louis line, which, well, doesn’t end well, as two losses to Chicago in a week’s time (one during the first part of Rivalry Week, the other in the Open Cup), a draw to Colorado, and a loss to Portland make painfully clear.

Plus John Nelson will sit thanks to the red card he picked up in Chicago last week. And while the guy could do with a break – he’s been spectacularly unlucky lately, if not just out of form – that means there will be some more disruption in the defense, despite the return of Tim Parker.

Finally, Something About St. Louis City!

See! The patience paid off! And guess what? It will be with the team itself, too. They’re going through a rough patch – they’re missing a key player on a team that everyone knew, heading into the season, was fairly thin. Plus they’re no longer a surprise to anyone – teams are preparing for them. But Klauss will come back, as will Rasmus Alm whose injury has also been a hindrance to St. Louis City, though of course not as much as Klauss’s has been. And in the meantime, players are getting significant minutes on the pitch who otherwise wouldn’t – and that always pays dividends down the road. One just has to be patient. like SKC was with Vermes. And for the same reason.

Rivalry Week Part Two: The Battle for Missouri: St. Louis SC v. Sporting KC

Oh and one more thing. For what it’s worth, Kansas City is not St. Louis’s real rival. And neither is Chicago. Not because St. Louis City SC is an expansion team and because rivalries develop over years and not just out of the brains of marketing people – although there’s that of course. No, there’s another city that is truly St. Louis’s rival – the whole city’s rival, every St. Louis sports team’s real rival, a city that St. Louis has literally decades of pain and anger about, and all justifiably so.

What city is that? Oh my, look at the clock. Gotta go. Next time, perhaps. Until then, practice a little patience and enjoy rivalry week.

 

Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports on May 13, 2023, of a Kyle Hiebert Headshot.