The inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup will feature a first-time matchup. The top team in the Eastern Conference, Columbus Crew 2, and the top team in the Western Conference, St. Louis CITY2, will face off at Lower.com Field for the first time, with the MLS NEXT Pro Cup on the line.
Unless Crew 2 fans have watched much of the West this year, they won’ know much about St. Louis City. Here is everything you need to know about Crew 2’s opponent.
After finishing atop the Western Conference standings, St. Louis CITY2 had one player named to the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI team. That player is defender Kyle Hiebert, who has started in every game so St. Louis thus far this year.
St. Louis CITY did not come out of the gates on fire in 2022. Through the team’s opening six games, St. Louis went 3-3, accumulating half of the side’s total losses on the season. Over the course of the rest of the year, the MLS NEXT Pro Western Conference champions only lost three games in regulation, including dropping two additional games on penalty kicks, boasting a final regular season record of 15-6-3.
On the team’s way to finishing at the top of the West, St. Louis CITY2 had the second most wins in the league (15), only one behind Crew 2. St. Louis also only had six losses, which was tied for third-best in the league. This team has been able to grind out results in 2022, which was evident in CITY’s 2-1 victory against the Tacoma Defiance in the Western Conference Final last weekend.
In that Western Conference Finals, St. Louis CITY2 was up 1-0 at halftime after a fantastic goal from outside the penalty box from midfielder Tomás Ostrák. St. Louis’ leading goalscorer, forward Josh Dolling, added a second to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. But CITY gave up a penalty kick 14 minutes from full-time, giving some tension to the final minutes of the match.
Crew 2 led MLS NEXT Pro with 62 goals scored. But St. Louis CITY2 was not far behind, as they have scored 55 this season, which was third best in the league. St. Louis was able to find scoring from all over the pitch, with 16 different goalscorers this season. CITY had two players score six goals and two score five throughout 2022.
St. Louis CITY2 was also able to get service from everywhere. The leading assist man for the team was defender Akil Watts, who tallied seven helpers this season. As a team, St. Louis had the second-most assists in the league with 43, behind only the Black & Gold, who led the league with 54.
Columbus will have to be aware of the visitors shooting from all over the field in the championship game. St. Louis CITY led MLS NEXT Pro in goals scored outside the penalty box (11) in 2022. The side has been able to score goals from everywhere, so goalkeeper Patrick Schulte and the defense will have to be on their toes throughout the final.
St. Louis CITY2 has also been solid defensively in the team’s first year, conceding only 34 goals this season, the sixth-best defensive record in the league.
Kick off for the MLS NEXT Pro Cup is scheduled for 1:30 p.m at Lower.com Field on Saturday afternoon.