City2 win while developing players for the club’s future in MLS | Soccer

The main idea behind the existence of MLS Next Pro, the league in which St. Louis City2 plays, is not to win, but to grow. The aim is to provide a place for players who have aged outside of the academy system to continue to develop their game to reach the level of Major League Soccer.

For City2, she was able to do both: develop and win.

City2, which faces Colorado Rapids 2 at 7 p.m. Saturday at Korte Stadium at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, are among the best teams in the league in terms of records, and at the same time, the club is reflecting on the lessons learned by their youngsters. players, some of whom are as young as 15, and love what’s going on.

“You think about development,” said City2 manager John Hackworth. “What do you need? Well, you need a good training environment. And then you need a good playing environment. You need teams that are going to test you and you need to have chance to play, so yeah, I think it’s been fantastic for our band.

“We were able to give a lot of young guys their first professional minutes. When we play at home, part of the development process is being in front of a crowd. You can hear it, you can feel it. There are people, there is a camera on you. It’s a projector, if you will. And that’s an important part of trying to grow as a young player. So we feel very good about that on our side and the league has provided us with that opportunity.

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City2 just completed the halfway point of their 24-game regular season, assembling a 9-2-2 record that tied them for first place in the Western Conference with North Texas FC, the team of Dallas development. City2 are in the top five for goals scored and fewest goals against. City2 have points from seven consecutive games with five wins and two draws. One of those ties came against a Rapids 2 side which, during a period of international hiatus for MLS, consisted of nearly all first-team players.

City2 come from a very different place than all but one other team in MLS Next Pro. The rest serve as farm teams for their MLS superiors and have rosters that change more often as players come and go or are sent for work if they’ve been inactive at the senior level for too long. With no senior team to manage, Hackworth has the same players in training every day, building cohesion and making problem solving easier.

But on the development side, City2’s roster will almost certainly send players into the main squad next season. The team has already declared defender and captain Josh Yaro to be a first team player next season, and others are making errands there: striker Josh Dolling, midfielders Vitor Dias, Wan Kuzain , Celio Pompeu, Kwame Awuah and Max Schneider and defender Kyle Hiebert. Other young players could stay for another Next Pro season to continue their development.

“I think between (sporting director) Lutz (Pfannenstiel) and (City coach) Bradley (Carnell),” Hackworth said, “there are going to be some very tough decisions to make as we move forward. , because we’ve had a bit of a focus on bringing in players, foreign players, and signing them to first team contracts, we’re going to have an equally difficult process to identify which guys we’re going to bring into the first team from it.

The look of City2 will soon change.

Roman Burki, who has just completed a run as a goalkeeper for German club Borussia Dortmund and will be City’s goalkeeper next season, arrived in St. Louis on Friday. He will start training with City2 next week and will be in the line-up soon after. The other international signings will follow soon and are expected to feature in matches for City2 in the later stages of the season. In some ways, this will be a distinct developmental role for City2, bringing together important elements of the squad long before the top team’s first training camp.

“We are possibly the strongest MLS Next Pro team on the planet,” Hackworth said.

And the thought of Burki diving on the hot artificial turf in training, and the outfield players who will come after, will also help the younger players in the team, who have already benefited from the presence of more experienced players such as Josh Yaro. .

“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Hackworth said, “is that you have our leadership within our current dressing room that has really embraced that part of trying to bring young people and teach them how to be good pros and teach them how to train, how to recover and how to rest, how to take care of themselves from what they eat and drink all those little things but more again about how they treat them as people. Josh did a phenomenal job. And so many other guys who have experience. It was special to be there. I’m sure Burki will contribute to it.

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