Slightly less than a month ago I drove the 250 miles to Saint Louis (and back!) to see the newest ambitious soccer club in the US, AC Saint Louis, which provided an evening of unexpected Balkan atmosphere. At that time I didn’t know that there is actually another professional team in the Gateway City, which is starting its fifth season in the PDL, Heartland Division, the St. Louis Lions.
The Lions play at the Tony Glavin Soccer Complex in St. Peters, an affluent suburb northeast of St. Louis, named after and owned by the (Scottish) coach of the team. To say that the facilities are modest is an understatement. The ground has one stand, a ten-row bleacher, and tickets are sold (at $5) at a table with an umbrella. The small hall is closed to the public during games, and the concession stand in it sells a very small selection (the only warm thing were tiny hot dogs).
On this fairly cold and rainy spring day some 100 people had come out to see the season opener of the Lions; almost all friends and family of the players or of kids who play in the youth program. Understandably, no one had made the 1000+ mile trip from Highland Ranch to support the Real Colorado Foxes.
The game started furious, flowing from goal to goal, creating dozens of chances and semi-chances. Already in the 3rd minute the visitors scored their first goal: after a pass from the right the striker had an easy tip-in: 0-1. The next minutes saw chances for both sides, including a volley from 5 meters gone wide (Lions), a deflected shot cleared from the goal line (Foxes), and a dive from a striker (Lions) that was ignored by the good referee. Although the level of play was much lower than that at most other PDL games, such as the Dayton Dutch Lions, the game was quite entertaining.
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In the 19th minute a Lions free kick is fumbled by the goalie and the rebound rolls slowly just wide of the post. This is followed by a couple of headers just over the goal and, ten minutes later, by a nice and volley which is saved by the Colorado goalie. From then the game becomes slower and poorer; the heavy soggy pitch is wearing the players out, particularly the guests, and the teams are stretched from box to box. In the 38th minute the Lions shoot hard at goal, but the Foxes goalie saves again. Half time score is 0-1.
During half time we are all invited to come on to the pitch and close all the holes. This is definitely a first and I happily participate. While walking around, and realizing that there are actually few holes on the pitch (I also now realize that I didn’t see many tackles), I see an injured player from the Foxes being treated on the side of the pitch.
The second half starts exactly as the first one, with a goal from the visitors in the third minute. A nifty though pass is easily finished: 0-2. Four minutes later the Foxes striker takes way too much time and shoots into the defender. The Lions now start to change many players and, although they keep fighting, the game is dominated by the much younger Foxes. After a couple of smaller chances, and some good saves from the Lions goalie, they get a penalty kick after a dumb hand ball.
The penalty kick is hard and bounces of the crossbar. This gives the Lions some new strength, while it further slows down the Foxes. They did create some half chances, but failed to score. In the end, the 0-2 victory of the Foxes was well deserved and didn’t even do full justice to the quality difference between the two teams.
This was in many ways a special game for me. First, it was the first time I visited a second team of a US city. Second, this was the most amateuristic setting of a first team I have ever visited. That said, I had a nice evening, despite the poor weather, and hope the Lions will profit from AC’s new success, rather than be put in its shadow.