Scouting St. Louis CITY SC

A note of caution here about these scouting reports: we’ve seen two straight weeks of opponents changing what they typically do in order to try to get a leg up on FC Cincinnati. When you’re a top-of-the-table team, this will happen. Since I’m only scouting two matches, some of the more specific things that I pick up on might not always come to fruition. Read this with a grain of salt, and hopefully, I can give you some ideas of what to watch for that will make your viewing experience both more fun and more informative.

With that caveat, here is my scouting report for St. Louis CITY SC.

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Team: St. Louis CITY SC

Matches Scouted: 4/1/23 vs Minnesota United and 4/8/23 at Seattle Sounders

Formation: 4-4-2 and 5-3-2

Mode of Attack

CITY is known for its high-press, forcing opponents into mistakes, and that is how the side gets most of its chance creation. However, they absolutely can use the ball as well. Offensively, they like to keep three defenders back and send everyone else forward. That means when they are in a 4-4-2, one of their outside backs (typically Nerwinski on the right) will tuck in like a third center back. When they have a true #6 on the field like Blom, they will use him as a third defender and send both outside players forward.

As they attack, their formation will often take on the look of being 3-2-5. Along with their three defenders, they have two midfielders with the freedom to get high or drop back. Everyone else looks like an orthodox attacker. From there, they spread the field really wide and move the ball around, looking for gaps.

Method of Chance Creation

Besides creating chances with their defensive pressure, there aren’t any noticeable patterns of play. When in possession, St. Louis simply passes to the open player, probing the opponent for an opening. Once the side finds that opening, it looks to hit it quickly. Often, they will combine through those gaps. In particular, Joāo Klauss is gifted at combining. Any ball into his feet, and he can use a delicate flick to get the ball to an open teammate.

Mode of Defense

St. Louis CITY SC is a high-pressing team, but this doesn’t mean that they always press high up the field. When they aren’t counter-pressing, they will drop into a mid or even low block at times. Whether they are in a back four or a back five, they typically drop into a formation with two central midfielders. This can look like a 4-4-1-1 or a 5-2-3.

However, they seem to always press out of this formation. Once the opponent enters the area of the field where they are setting their line of confrontation, they press like crazy. This means they get numbers around the ball and squeeze opponents into turnovers. They mark very aggressively, and players ahead of the ball collapse in around the ball as a recovery run.

Mode of Transition

Offensively, CITY tries to transition quickly in any way that it can. They will use a long ball into the channels, dribble through space or play a ball into Klauss and try to run off of him. When the ball is out of play or stopped for a free kick, they will often try to get it back in play quickly, even hitting a long, direct ball from a goal kick.

Defensively their transition is all about pressing. When they can press immediately off a turnover, they will. This means that their players moving to tackle a player receiving an out ball in transition will come in hot and heavy. You will get whacked if you are not careful when receiving the ball with your back to the CITY center backs. From there, if you get past a challenge they will try to foul you to stop your transition.

Major Strengths
  • They can play out of a lot of different formations, making it very difficult to predict where the space will be on the field.
  • Their fitness allows them to press all over the field for the entire match.
  • Their main target player, Joāo Klauss, has fantastic feet and vision and can use one-touch play to be very effective at freeing his teammates.
  • Their outside attackers are very fluid, and can play from outside or centrally.
  • Their center backs are near wreckless at times, flying into tackles.
  • Because of their pressing style, they are prone to ball-chasing. One-touch play can carve them open.
  • Because of their shape and aggressive center backs when playing into a target, lay-off passes off of that target are typically wide open in transition.
  • Their outside backs are not a real threat offensively and lack the speed defensively to track back.
  • Their goalkeeper is not clean with his saves, will take risks and give up rebounds.
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