AC St. Louis welcomes the NASL conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps to AB Soccer Park for a 7:10 pm kickoff this Saturday June 26. It has been more than a month since AC St. Louis’ last home game, a 3-0 loss to the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies on May 22. The Whitecaps’ record is 5-2-5, and they are unbeaten in their last four games, including a road victory over USSF D2 point leader the Austin Aztex on June 12. The Whitecaps have only allowed 7 goals in their 12 league games. Vancouver won the only previous match between the two teams, 1-0, at Swangard Stadium in April. The Whitecaps, who begin MLS play next year, are approaching 13,000 season ticket deposits for the 2011 season.
Vancouver’s outstanding defense has been negated somewhat by the team’s lack of finishing, especially earlier in the season. Forward Marcus Haber, who scored a big goal in the win over the Aztex, has returned to West Brom Albion, which won promotion this spring back into the English Premier League. The Whitecaps recently signed Vancouver native Alex Elliot, a former Canadian U-20 international and FSV Mainz 05 attacker who can play striker or out wide. Coach Teitur Thordarson will look to Marlon James, Cornelius Stewart Jonny Steele and youngsters Dever Orgill and Randy Edwini-Bonsu for offense. Longtime Whitecaps veteran and Canadian international midfielder Martin Nash leads USSF D2 with five assists in 2010, and the team continues to lead the league in corner kicks. The Whitecaps are still without defender Mouloud Akloul, who fractured his ankle after scoring in the earlier match with AC St. Louis. Regular left back Zurab Tsiskaridze is suspended for Saturday’s match following the accumulation of five yellow cards, but overall the Whitecaps are in good health and have had a ten-day break to recharge their batteries.. Jay Nolly has been outstanding in goal.
AC St. Louis has been on a streak of its own, winning three consecutive road games by the score of 1-0 in each game. Their victories over the Des Moines Menace and the NSC Minnesota Stars in US Open Cup play have guaranteed them a third round Cup match Tuesday June 29 against the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS. AC St. Louis has a new coach, Dale Schilly, who makes his debut Saturday, replacing Claude Anelka. Schilly, a St. Louis area native, has over 25 years of coaching experience at the youth and collegiate level, most recently overseeing the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois soccer organization. Schilly also has 14 years of experience as head coach of the Region 11 Olympic Development soccer program. He brings in a new staff of assistants which include John Vanbuskirk, Tim Leonard and Blake Decker, all three of which have strong local ties.
Schilly began his first training session with the club Thursday, and was quoted by the Alton Telegraph, regarding the change in coaching professional players, that “I called my wife after training (Thursday) and I told her that even though the professionals are bigger and faster, they still deal with a lot of the same issues as the youth players. Obviously the skill level is very high. I’ll have to be on my ‘A’ game all the time, just like the players.” Schilly will remain with Scott Gallagher, stating that “I’ll continue in my role with the club as-is. The training schedule works – AC St. Louis trains in the morning and the club teams in the afternoon. This is kind of down time for the club right now, plus I’m in control of the competition calendar for (SLSG).” Regarding the upcoming games with Vancouver and the Galaxy, Schilly told the Telegraph that “with a travel day (Monday) to Los Angeles, that really only gives us one day between games. But at the end of those two games, we’ll have a good indication of what we need to do.” Schilly attended Florida International University, and played on a NCAA National Championship team there in 1982. (Former AC St. Louis player Steve Ralston also played at Florida International). Schilly also attended Rosary High School in North St. Louis County. Rosary (now Trinity High School) has won several Missouri state high school soccer championships.
This should be an intriguiing match. Both teams have come alive recently and both so far have been stronger defensively than in finishing. Alec Dufty continues to shine in goal for AC St. Louis, with a string of three clean sheets, and both teams are relatively healthy and rested. Vancouver is obviously the stronger, more established team, but with AC St. Louis having a new coach and playing their first home game in over a month, I expect a great crowd for Saturday night. The excitement level will be sky-high, especially if the US Men’s National Team delivers a win against Ghana in the World Cup earlier in the afternoon. Gotta love it. Bring it on !!! GO AC !!!
A special Fanatic tip of the hat to all those AC St. Louis fans who have taken an active role and given of their own time and effort to help promote the team and widen the fan base, distributing flyers and ticket coupons throughout the area. You are FANTASTIC fans. And I understand there are discount tickets available for Saturday’s game….see the AC St. Louis website or call 1-800-STL-GOAL. Support our team !!!