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THE MORNING TEA – Why You Should Jump on the Saint Louis FC Bandwagon

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/23/20, 7:30AM EDT


Independence’s Miller, Roberts discuss barriers in youth game; Republic FC, Make-A-Wish boost local power soccer player

Week 14 got out to a flying start for Austin Bold FC as it boosted its playoff chances, and tonight brings more key action as the battle for the postseason comes down to the wire. Here’s your Morning Tea for Wednesday.



As you’re probably well aware, it’s almost time for the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.

Some teams have clinched their places, some are on the verge of doing so, and some of these races are potentially going to come down to the wire.

But if you don’t have a rooting interest – or your team has been eliminated from contention – you should seriously consider carrying a flag for Saint Louis FC over the next two weeks.

Why? Well, they’re arguably the most interesting, exhilarating and – most of all – exasperating team to follow the Championship has seen since the club first kicked off in 2015. On rare occasions, they’re all three within the span of 90 minutes.

The disappointments – and, boy, have there been those – have just left you wondering how unfortunate a club can be. What curse did it pick up along the way that meant when things could go wrong, they inevitably would?   

Just look at last season. Saint Louis FC was on a roll, five consecutive wins in September and headed for its second consecutive playoff berth. rated it a 94 percent chance to make the playoffs on September 24. Sure thing, right? Nope. STLFC proceeded to lose five of its last six games, dropping contests to Loudoun United FC and Memphis 901 FC as well as against Louisville City FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

A win on the last day of the season would still have given them a chance. A 1-0 defeat to North Carolina FC ended them.

That has been the lot of Saint Louis FC fans for much of the past six seasons. Hope for the best. Expect the worst.

But then, there were those moments that – against all odds and superstition – just brought chills down your spine. Sam Fink and Aaron Horton leading the late-season comeback against the Charleston Battery in 2015, or the Open Cup penalty shootout against Minnesota United when Mark Pais became king for a night.

There was Irvin Herrera’s four-goal blockbuster in Tulsa, and the night the players celebrated a 0-0 draw to clinch the club’s first playoff berth with more than 6,000 fans on hand, finally going to the promised land. The Open Cup victories at home against the Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati, and the towering header from Sam Fink that rocked the stands last summer. 

Fink has seen almost all of it, by the way. He’s played 132 times in the Championship for STLFC, recorded more than 11,000 minutes – both easily the most in the club’s history – and has been the talisman for many of the moments that have gone right. Last Saturday, he added another with a 96th-minute header that grabbed victory after Saint Louis had squandered a two-goal lead to Sporting Kansas City II. It was almost another of those “can you believe it…” STLFC moments, until it became a “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!” one instead.

But that’s what you get, and that’s why you jump on the bandwagon now. There’s a great chance it ends in disappointment. Indy Eleven is a fine team, and if it beats Saint Louis on Wednesday night then the fat lady will be warming up in the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium.

If it doesn’t? Well, we’ve got the potential for something special to happen to what’s been through it all a special club to have as part of this league.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?



Charlotte Independence vs. Miami FC

Group G

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Sportsplex at Matthews Predictor: CLT Wins 47% | Draw 24% | MIA Wins 29%
Group H
The Gist: The Charlotte Independence can move into first place in Group G and clinch their first trip to the playoffs with a victory on Wednesday night as Miami FC visits the Sportsplex at Matthews. Charlotte moved within two points of the postseason on Saturday night as Aaron Maund scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory against North Carolina FC that moved the Independence 11 points ahead of NCFC in second place in the group standings. Now only a point behind Birmingham Legion FC, the Independence play their game in hand against Miami, which was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday evening in the first game of its trip to the Carolinas as it fell 2-0 to the Charleston Battery. The Independence will be without Dane Kelly for the contest after he was sent off against NCFC and will serve a one-game suspension, but after earning four consecutive victories the hosts will be hopeful of continuing their strong run of form back on home turf.
Discipline: Charlotte – Dane Kelly (Suspended)

Hartford Athletic vs. Philadelphia Union II

Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dillon Stadium Predictor: HFD Wins 54% | Draw 22% | PHI Wins 24%
Group F
The Gist: Having qualified for the postseason, Hartford Athletic has the chance to move within three points of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the Group F standings when it welcomes the Philadelphia Union II to Dillon Stadium. The contest is the second in a home-and-home series between the two clubs that saw the Athletic take a 3-0 win on Sunday evening at Subaru Park. Two goals inside the opening 15 minutes sent Hartford on its way to victory as Alex Dixon’s two-goal game helped earn him a place on the Championship Team of the Week for Week 13 announced on Tuesday. The Union II did show some positives against Hartford on Sunday evening but will need to be more consistent to properly threaten the Athletic defensively as the hosts try to keep up their pursuit of first place in the final standings.
Discipline: None

Indy Eleven vs. Saint Louis FC

Group E

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium Predictor: IND Wins 49% | Draw 28% | STL Wins 23%
Group E
The Gist: Second place in Group E is on the line as Indy Eleven plays host to Saint Louis FC at Lucas Oil Stadium with one point separating the clubs as the enter Wednesday night’s contest. The teams will meet twice in the final three games of the regular season, with STLFC set to host their meeting on the final weekend of the season, but Indy can take control of second place and potentially close out its third consecutive trip to the USL Championship Playoffs in its penultimate game against Sporting Kansas City II next Wednesday. In order to do that, though, Indy will need to rebound from a 2-0 defeat against Louisville City FC last week that now sees Indy sit seven points back of LouCity for first place. After a strong start to the campaign, the Boys in Blue have struggled against their LIPAFC rivals, going winless this season in four meetings and losing three in their last five outings overall. Saint Louis, meanwhile, earned a last-minute victory against SKC II in its last outing to keep its hopes of a second postseason trip alive as Sam Fink scored in second-half stoppage time to earn a 3-2 win. Now it will try to take back-to-back wins for the second time this season and jump into the top two in the standings to put the pressure on its rival over the final two contests of the regular season.
Discipline: None

Atlanta United 2 vs. New York Red Bulls II

Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium Predictor: ATL Wins 38% | Draw 24% | NY Wins 38%
Group F
The Gist: Atlanta United 2 and the New York Red Bulls II will square off having both been eliminated from playoff contention but still looking to finish the season on a positive note. Atlanta is coming off back-to-back defeats to Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the latter last Wednesday night coming via a late goal by Tampa Bay’s Sebastian Guenzatti. New York, meanwhile, saw its postseason streak come to an end over the past weekend after a defeat in its last outing against Hartford Athletic and the Athletic’s victory against the Philadelphia Union II on Sunday sent Hartford to the playoffs. With four games remaining, however, New York can still reach the .500 mark for the season if it wins out.
Discipline: None

LA Galaxy II vs. San Diego Loyal SC

Group B

10:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park Predictor: LA Wins 34% | Draw 26% | SD Wins 39%
Group B
The Gist: San Diego Loyal SC will try to add to its three-game winning streak as it visits the LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night. SD Loyal sits a point ahead of both Los Dos and Orange County SC for second place in the Group B standings, but the Galaxy II have four games remaining to San Diego’s two, making this a must-win for the visitors. That was the outcome the last time the teams met as SD Loyal took a 3-0 victory against Los Dos behind two goals from Miguel Berry on September 9, and in their last outing San Diego got a hat trick from another recent arrival in former U.S. National Team forward Rubio Rubin as it defeated first-placed Phoenix Rising FC 3-2 on Saturday night. Los Dos rebounded from their loss to San Diego with a 3-2 comeback win against Las Vegas Lights FC and would remain in playoff contention even with a loss on Wednesday night. A victory would give the Galaxy II the inside track to close out a second consecutive trip to the playoffs, though, as well as some revenge for their most recent defeat.
Discipline: San Diego – Grant Stoneman (Suspended)




- “There's so much untapped potential in these communities. But if it costs $1,500, 2-grand a year for a 12-year-old to play soccer, well that's just not feasible for a large number of people.” The Charlotte Independence’s Brandon Miller and Hugh Roberts, both founders of the USL Black Players Alliance, were among those who spoke with Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell about the barriers that have hindered access to soccer at youth levels across the United States for young Black players.

- Austin Bold FC gave its postseason chances a boost on Tuesday night as it pulled away in the second half for a 4-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City II. The hosts got goals from Xavier Baez and Alasanne Ates Diouf in the win, which moved Bold FC two points ahead of FC Tulsa for second place in Group D.

- Connecticut has been home to elite soccer programs and games in the past, but Hartford Athletic’s arrival has given the Nutmeg State a professional team to call its own. The New Haven Register’s Jim Fuller looked at the progress of the club, which is headed to the USL Championship Playoffs next month for the first time in its second season.  

- San Diego Loyal SC’s five-game undefeated streak has put it firmly back into the playoff picture as it visits the LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night. CBS8’s Jake Garegnagi checked in with the squad that has hit a rich vein of form at just the right moment to give it a chance at a postseason berth in its inaugural season.

- Saint Louis FC knows its game against Indy Eleven on Wednesday night is a must-win for its postseason chances. “I think we’re ready,” Head Coach Steve Trittschuh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Lyons. “We’ve looked sharp in practice and I think the guys are looking forward to this one.”

- Phoenix Rising FC’s Junior Flemmings continued to shine on Saturday night to reach 14 goals for the season, and surpass 50 regular season goals for his career, and continues to draw praise from Head Coach Rick Schantz. “He can't stand to lose anything,” Schantz told the Arizona Republic’s Lorenzino Estrada. “When you add that with talent, desire, skill and intelligence you get Junior Flemmings. He and I both know he's not long for USL. He can play in Europe very easily.”

- Michael Watson has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and has limited mobility, but always dreamed of playing sports. As Fox40’s Kay Recede reports, he’s now playing power soccer and has been boosted by the donation of a new electric wheelchair by Sacramento Republic FC and Make-A-Wish Northern California.

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