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Saint Louis FC: Rivals to the East

Saint Louis FC and their loyal supporters, the St. Louligans, are gearing up for their second year in the USL. They will look to improve upon their 9th place finish in the eastern conference during the 2015 season. Tulsa and Saint Louis met only once last season during the regular season, with STLFC winning 2-0 at ONEOK Field. This season, however, STLFC is moving to the Western conference and will face the Roughnecks at least 4 times during the regular season. I decided to find out a little more about STLFC by reaching out to their General Manager, Jeremy Alumbaugh. We talked about the last season as well as the upcoming 2016 season and caught up on a Roughneck fan favorite from 2015’s season.

The 2015 season for STLFC had it’s up and downs, with the team finishing just outside the playoffs in their inaugural season. Alumbaugh explained, “We started out okay, but hit a bump after the U.S. Open Cup. We made it to the Fourth Round of the Cup and played at Sporting Kansas City, in front of the biggest crowd ever to attend an Open Cup match. We didn’t get the result, but came away with a 1-0 loss [to a Major League Soccer team].” Up to that point, STLFC was 5-4-5 (W-L-T). Following the Open Cup, STLFC ran into some injuries and unfavorable results, going 3-8-4. However, STLFC would finish strong by winning their last two matches, including a 2-1 home win over rivals, Louisville City. Alumbaugh praised the coaching staff and team for their continued efforts through the end of the season.

Although the 2015 season ended on somewhat of a high note, STLFC’s challenges were far from over. During the off season, Saint Louis experienced historic flooding. As a result, STLFC’s home stadium, World Wide Technology Soccer Park, was completely underwater. Alumbaugh stated, “We’re getting everything in place in time for the home opener against Tulsa. The turf is laid in the stadium and the practice fields, locker rooms, and offices are ready to go. In fact, we moved into our offices last week. There will be some little things to work out between here and kick-off, but we’ll be alright.” STLFC’s home opener will be April 16th against the Roughnecks.

STLFC’s move to the Western Conference is an exciting change for STLFC’s staff. “Being here in Saint Louis, smack-dab in the middle of the country, we’re used to either [traveling] to the east or to the west. We are excited about [joining the Western Conference], because we have good relationships with Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Sacramento. We are looking at expanding those relationships with other teams out there. STLFC will continue playing Louisville City and newcomers, FC Cincinnati, twice each. Getting to Oklahoma City [for example], is easier for our fans. Even in places like Sacramento, we may not have a lot, or any, supporters making that trip, but it’s a great atmosphere to play in.”

We talked about several of the players on the roster, including Chad Bond, who made the move to STLFC during the off-season. Alumbaugh, “Chad is doing well. We knew he would, as he was such a big piece for you guys [Tulsa Roughnecks] last year. He’s a veteran and we were missing that piece in the middle. We have some younger players growing into that role, but you can’t fast-forward experience. Getting Chad in here was a priority for us and worked out well. He is acclimating himself very well with the players and coaches. He really loved Tulsa, which means we’ll have to work hard to make him feel welcome here in Saint Louis.”

Jeremie Lynch and Jamiel Hardware will return to STLFC, along with other key players from 2015’s team. Lynch scored STLFC’s initial goal against Tulsa, last year. Alumbaugh also mentioned, “Jamiel has had a great preseason. He had a broken hand last year, but really came back and had a strong finish to the season. Sam Fink played every minute possible, last year. James Musa, at center back who played a lot of minutes last year, will be back this season.” On the back line, Musa and Fink will be joined by defenders Brandon Barklage, Chad Vandegriffe, and Oskar Gasecki; all had significant playing time in 2015.

STLFC also has several goalkeepers and defenders from the 2015 campaign returning for the 2016 season. Goalkeepers, Mark Pais (8 USL starts) and Alex Riggs (1 USL start) will return. In addition to Pais and Riggs, Ryan Thompson will join the group from the Pittsburg Riverhounds of the USL (he had 10 starts in 2015). One of the key departures of 2015’s team was goalkeeper Alec Kann, who started in 19 USL matches between the posts, left for Sporting Kansas City. Former MLS super draftee and Houston Dynamo defender, AJ Cochran will look to bolster the defense. Patrick Doody, who started in 18 USL matches in 2015, has returned to STLFC’s MLS affiliate, Chicago Fire.

STLFC kept most of their core line up from 2015 in the midfield and at forward. In the midfield, STLFC brought back most of their squad including Parker Maher, Charles Renken, Jacob Bushue, and Kentaro Takada. STLFC will be without the services of Bryan Gaul who had 4 goals and 4 assists in the USL in 2015; who left to play at Bahlinger SC in Germany. However, as discussed earlier, Chad Bond will be a major addition as he had 1 goal and 8 assists with Tulsa. As for the forwards, the leading goal scores from last season return for the 2016 season. Mike Ambersley, Jeremie Lynch, and Jamiel Hardware all combined for 12 USL goals, return. STLFC also signed 24 year old, El Salvador national, Irvin Herrera who had a goal in the CONCACAF Champions League at his former club, Santa Tecla.

STLFC will be a team that will compete for a playoff spot in the west. STLFC was fourth in the league in attendance, which will make for tough road matches. STLFC had very little turnover in their field positions and only seemed to add quality to their lineup. The “Louligans” are very active on social media and will no doubt let our fans know about it, if STLFC rattles off some wins on our team. I fully expect their legion of fans to follow STLFC here to Tulsa. STLFC, welcome to the west!