St. Louis CITY SC have been the story of the 2023 MLS season, enjoying a historic start to their expansion campaign with five wins from their first five matches and sitting top of the league with a +11 goal differential.
Then on Saturday night at CITYPARK, Minnesota United FC did what no one else in MLS had yet accomplished, handing St. Louis their first-ever defeat courtesy of a 1-0 scoreline.
"We’re not superhuman after all," CITY SC head coach Bradley Carnell said after the Matchday 6 clash.
The Loons are one of three undefeated teams remaining in MLS, joining defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC and FC Cincinnati. Minnesota proved tough to break down and opportunistic, scoring on their lone shot on target, a Luis Amarilla penalty kick in the 78th minute.
"The burning fire was missing early on in the game. Maybe it starts weighing on the boys," Carnell said. "That's the nature of the beast right, you’re successful, the boys know at some point this thing has to change, right? It's just the human nature and these boys are not robots and yeah, we're just human beings after all."
St. Louis struggled to win second balls against Minnesota's two-striker formation. The Loons won six more duels over the course of the match.
"It just creates a bit of a defensive transition, a lot of running for us in the wrong direction," Carnell said. "We like to defend forward and on the front foot and too many times tonight, we were backtracking off the pace, stepping back off the opponent. Not decisive enough in certain moments."
Carnell liked the response after conceding and hoped the insertion of Aziel Jackson immediately after would provide a spark.
"Obviously as the picture-perfect storybook would go, you bring on Aziel Jackson, it’s his previous club and unfortunately the storyboard did not pan out that way," Carnell said.
The same could be said of St. Louis CITY SC in Matchday 6. That "picture-perfect storybook" that’s been the expansion side’s 2023 season took a bit of a dent. And now, the response is critical, especially with a trip to Lumen Field to take on Seattle Sounders FC next Saturday in Matchday 7.
"Nothing changed [in] our desire to get better as a team every single day. We lose a game, but yeah, that's what it is, we lost the game," Carnell said. "So next week, we go, the scoreline’s back at zero and we go to Seattle with energy, renewed energy. And now we're in the league, right? So now I think everyone knows something a bit about us. And now it's up to us to respond."
Carnell said now is the time for the club’s leadership to step up, making sure the players leave CITYPARK with heads up and chests out, getting refocused for what will be a battle for first place in the Western Conference next weekend (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
“That was the message to the boys out there. I said we've arrived in the league,” Carnell said. “People know about us in the league. We've been competitive. We are competitive. And we're not done yet.”
WATCH: Perfect no more! Minnesota United knock off St. Louis CITY