For Kyle Hiebert, St. Louis City’s success is nothing short of surreal. Expansion teams simply aren’t supposed to make such a first impression.
The young defender scored his first Major League Soccer goal last weekend when St. Louis defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 on the road.
The individual goal was great, but Hiebert said it was more important City had won its first three matches -- matching the Seattle Sounders’ 2009 record for best start by an expansion team.
Normally, expectations are lowered for new franchises.
“I think we bought in -- I know I bought in -- to the underdog mentality. You know, everyone writing us off before the season even began, it’s something that’s added fire to me and I know it’s added fire to this whole team as well,” Hiebert said.
St. Louis will have a chance to top the record tonight when it hosts the San Jose Earthquakes.
What makes City’s start all the more remarkable is that they came from behind in all three victories -- the first time a team has recorded three consecutive come-from-behind wins since the LA Galaxy in 2015.
St. Louis is the first MLS team to do in it the first three games of the season.
“We just have confidence in the group and a calmness in the group,” St. Louis coach Bradley Carnell said. “We’ve overcome a lot of adversity over the last couple of weeks, like going down goals and showing great team resolve a great spirit and to come back every time before the half. It’s been good momentum going into halftime, and then we know we have a very solid roster and guys coming off the bench to make a difference.”
Jared Stroud and Joao Klauss each have a pair of goals, and Eduard Lowen leads the league with three assists. Klauss and Lowen have contributed to a goal or scored in each of the team’s three matches, the first MLS newcomers to do so since Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi in 2018 for LAFC.
St. Louis is the only team in MLS that has three straight wins to open this season. LAFC has won both of its games. Atlanta, Nashville and Cincinnati are undefeated, with each team winning two matches and tying one.
“Every game we’ve had to show resilience, that we can be a team that will keep fighting, a team that can come from behind,” said Hiebert, a Canadian who went Missouri State and played for St. Louis 2 last season. “I think it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. No matter what the situation is, we can be a team that fights and scraps and comes out with three points.”
St. Louis was generating buzz even before the team took the field. The club got more than 60,000 deposits for 19,000 available season tickets at its privately built $450-million downtown stadium, which has a view of the iconic Gateway Arch.
The city already had a long-held relationship with soccer. Back in 1950, five players from St. Louis started on the national team that memorably defeated England at the World Cup. And Saint Louis University has won 10 national championships in soccer.
Carnell said the team’s success honors not only the city’s rabid soccer supporters, but that history.
“I don’t think it’s about creating history or equaling history for us. This group is about honoring the history, honoring the group, you know, that has been here and done it before in St. Louis, not on the MLS level, but it’s almost a tribute to everyone prior, in the ’50s and onwards.
“I mean, for 70 years now, this town, St. Louis, they’ve all been itching and hoping for something like this.”