AC St. Louis takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps tonight at Swangard Stadium in a 9:30 pm CDT kickoff. What are the odds of a scoreless draw tonight? The two teams have played twice so far in 2010, with Vancouver winning 1-0 at home and the teams involved in a scoreless draw on June 26 in St. Louis. According to the Whitecapsfanblog, Vancouver has been involved in seven scoreless draws in 2010. They have allowed only 8 goals in 15 league games so far, but have only scored 14. AC St. Louis had a string of four shutouts ended by LA Galaxy in the US Open Cup, when they gave up two goals in the last third of the game to the Galaxy. AC St. Louis gave up two more goals last Saturday night against the Carolina RailHawks. AC St. Louis is also offensively starved, as they have only scored 7 in 12 league games. AC St. Louis needs points to get back in the USSF D2 playoff hunt, and a win in Vancouver would get Dale Schilly’s team back on the right track.
AC St. Louis’ roster continues to shrink. Losing Steve Ralston, then Manu Kante and Christian Nzinga was a great loss of experience. Now, AC St. Louis has parted ways with young James McCarthy, who hadn’t played since preseason, and defender Dillon Barna is probably out until September after suffering a broken collarbone. With minor injuries being a big part of this very physical league, and occasional suspensions due to red cards and/or accumulation of yellow cards, AC St. Louis’ squad seems to be getting perilously thin, especially upfront and on the defensive backline. I know the team is trying to save money, but with twelve league games between now and the end of August, many of which will be in the St. Louis heat and humidity, I hope the team can pick up a player or two, perhaps on loan from a MLS team. The FC Tampa Bay Rowdies recently picked up forward Andre Akpan on loan from the Colorado Rapids. Akpan has some nice credentials, as he played on the US U-20 National Team, scoring a hat trick against Haiti, and also was one of three finalists for the 2009 Hermann Trophy, awarded to that year’s top collegiate soccer player. He is also tied for the career goal scoring title at Harvard, where he scored 47 goals during his career. Perhaps a possibility for AC St. Louis would be Jarius “Juice” Holmes, who plays for the St. Louis Lions. The Lions have only two games remaining, including their last home game this coming Sunday, before finishing their PDL season on July 24 at Des Moines. Holmes has USSF D2 experience, having played 14 games last season for the Austin Aztex, and is a pacy midfielder. And although he is a midfielder who lacks height, he is an area player who could provide depth to our team.
After tonight’s game, AC St. Louis returns to AB Soccer Park for a 7:10 pm Saturday night match with the Montreal Impact. Hope to see a good, enthusiastic crowd for our first encounter with the future MLS side. As Dave Trotter pointed out in a recent Fanatic article, attendance has been shifting downwards at the last three AC St. Louis homegames, and it would be great to reverse that trend Saturday night. I suspect that the reasons he listed, such as some disenchantment by fans with the loss of Ralston, Francisco Filho, Claude Anelka and Manu Kante; the loss of Athletica, the team’s losing record and just the novelty of a new team wearing off ( I remember some posts on Big Soccer from folks in other USSF D2 cities after we had 5,600 for our first home game, warning us not to expect that level of attendance to continue) are legitimate causes for the attendance decline. Another reason, perhaps, is a lack of goals scored and the lack of a real public “face” for the team, with Ralston gone. Knowing how soccer goes, tonight’s Vancouver match may go against trends and feature several goals by both teams. Certainly AC St. Louis has shown some offensive spark, but putting some goals in the net may create additional interest. And to some degree, not having professional men’s soccer for more than 30 years, we have a tendency to “worry” things more than fans in cities with more established teams. Between AC St. Louis and the Lions game last Saturday night, over 2,400 fans watched men’s soccer on a holiday weekend. Not bad. But let’s continue to bring friends and relatives to AC Soccer Park and get the attendance going back in the right direction. GO AC !!!