St. Louis City can become the first expansion team in MLS history to win their first four league games when they host the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.
St. Louis (3-0-0, 9 points) has already defeated Austin FC, Charlotte FC and the Portland Timbers this campaign. That ties the 2009 Seattle Sounders for best-ever three-match start for an expansion team.
In Portland last Saturday, Jared Stroud scored shortly before halftime to level the match. Then defender Kyle Hiebert scored his first MLS goal in the 75th minute, capitalizing on a sloppy free kick defending to send a header past Portland goalkeeper David Bingham.
As a result, St. Louis was installed as oddsmakers’ favorites for the first time in its brief history this week. But manager Bradley Carnell does not believe suddenly rising outside expectations will shift his squad’s mentality.
“We took it upon ourselves to hit a hard reset on Tuesday when we got back to work,” Carnell said this week. “There’s a lot of good things happening. Obviously, momentum and success helps ease the cause. But even if we weren’t 3-0, I think this group would be even hungry for more.”
San Jose (2-1-0, 6 points) have also started brightly under new coach Luchi Gonzalez.
The Quakes’ only defeat so far came away to an Atlanta United team that has yet to lose this season, and they led that contest 1-0 heading into second-half stoppage time.
Jeremy Ebobisse scored in his first two games of the season for San Jose. Cristian Espinoza struck the winner in March 11’s 1-0 home win over the Colorado Rapids after striking the post earlier in the match.
Espinoza has always been a talented winger, but adding more of a goal-scoring threat could take him from a good-to-great MLS player, and lift the Quakes with him. He scored a career-high seven goals last year.
“It’s something I’ve always tried to work toward,” Espinoza said this week through an interpreter. “I’m always trying to create spaces to have good shooting opportunities. As a winger, sometimes you don’t have many chances to shoot so you need to create those spaces to have options.”
–Field Level Media
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