At long last, St. Louis soccer fans got to take in their new home on Wednesday night when St Louis CITY2 welcomed Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga for a special opening day affair.
The friendly ended 3-0 in favor of the visitors, but the scoreline didn’t dampen the occasion much as the capacity crowd (22,500) cheered their men on all the way to the final whistle in the face of below-freezing weather in downtown St. Louis.
As far as the action goes, it was all Leverkusen on the scoresheet and though it wasn’t in favor of their hometown side, those in attendance were treated to some stylish goals.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, who is on loan from Chelsea of the English Premier League, broke the deadlock in the first half.
Leverkusen had their feet on the gas and fired in a chance that took CITY2 goalkeeper Roman Bürki out of his post in the 36th minute. The aftermath left space for a tap-in at point-blank and Hudson-Odoi made no mistake with the golden opportunity.
With that, the 22-year-old Englishman goes down as the first-ever goalscorer in CITYPARK history, and he wasn’t quite finished doing damage.
Just before the halftime whistle, Hudson-Odoi perfectly sent a through ball to striker Adam Hložek who beat an outstretched Bürki on the far post with a one-touch finish.
Hložek, a 20-year-old Czech international, notched a brace in the second half. In the 51st minute, he rifled off a left-footed laser from the center of the box.
It goes without saying that CITY2 was fighting an uphill battle as Leverkusen, which is currently 12th in the German ranks, visited the Gateway city in midseason form with their stars in tow. Leverkusen, also known as Die Werkself, departed for their American tour on a three-game winning streak in Bundesliga play, outscoring opponents 9-1 in that span.
Wednesday’s loss marks MLS NEXT PRO’s first against international competition. In July, Real Monarchs, Toronto FC II, and Colorado Rapids 2 combined to go unbeaten in four matches against Chelsea U-21 and Wolverhampton U-21 in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Invitational.