This edition of The Bridge’s STL Sports Blog puts a spotlight on the area’s lesser known but currently most successful pro sports franchise, the first place Saint Louis Football Club. While Major League Soccer isn’t quite in the city yet, St. Louis has a United Soccer League Championship (the professional soccer level and sort of minor league to MLS) team that has got off to a start that even optimistic fans and media would be impressed with.
For the uninitiated, Saint Louis FC plays in Fenton, Missouri at Toyota Stadium, known by many as St. Louis Soccer Park. They began play in 2015, and after a trying and tumultuous first few seasons, they found their voice and game in manager Anthony Pulis. The name Pulis has weight in the world of soccer. Anthony’s father, Tony Pulis, has a reputation for a lockdown, no nonsense style of soccer. A style of soccer that focuses on the defensive side of the ball first and foremost, more happy (and likely) to win 1-0 than 4-3. The younger Pulis has brought that same management style with him, and gave Saint Louis FC the identity they had yet to establish as a franchise.
Pulis’s first campaign with the team was the team’s first appearance in the USL Playoffs, a feat many didn’t predict at the beginning of the season. The prior season, Saint Louis FC was managed by Preki, a former US soccer star, who brought a lot of hope and optimism with his name, but not a lot of wins. Now under Pulis, winning has become the norm. Perhaps a defensive, grind-it-out style isn’t always the most entertaining from the stands or on television, but more than ever Saint Louis FC stays in control. This system Pulis has implemented and taught keeps their box safe, and most importantly wins them games.
This season specifically, Saint Louis FC has won games that many didn’t think they would win. Many who follow and report on USL and soccer as a whole saw their opening slate of matches as days they would be lucky to get a draw out of. Four games against teams that either made the playoffs last season or are likely to make the playoffs yet again. Wins against Indianapolis, Nashville, and Charlotte, and a draw against Tampa Bay on the back of their defense have catapulted Saint Louis FC to the top of the USL Championship.
You don’t have to wait for a big multi-hundred million dollar stadium to watch great pro soccer in the St. Louis Area, it’s happening right now in Fenton.