St Louis CITY SC begins life in Major League Soccer next spring, but first CITY2 will be aiming to bring home the franchise's first-ever championship.
CITY2 will travel to Eastern Conference Champions Columbus Crew 2 in Saturday’s MLS NEXT Pro Cup at Lower.com Field, looking to cap off an impressive debut season in the league. Back-to-back victories over North Texas SC and Tacoma Defiance have propelled John Hackworth’s squad into the league final, a road that witnessed CITY2 knocking fending off two of the league’s top attacking units.
A 2-0 home win over North Texas SC in the first round of the playoffs was headlined by goals from Tomas Ostrák and Celio Pompeu, and a shutout by one of the league’s best defensive units. Matthew Creek posted his fourth clean sheet of the season while Best XI selection Kyle Heibert and veteran centerback Josh Yaro excelled in the backline.
CITY2 faced a tougher test in the Western Conference Final but escaped with a 2-1 victory over Tacoma Defiance. Ostrák scored his second goal in as many appearances for CITY2 while Josh Dolling added his first postseason goal in the second half. Creek made two saves to preserve the victory, sending the West’s No. 1 seed into Saturday’s Cup Final.
Columbus Crew 2 finished as the highest-scoring team in the league, but CITY2 possesses one of the more experienced defensive units in MLS NEXT Pro. Yaro and Heibert will try to limit Golden Boot winner Jacen Russell-Rowe, who already has three goals in two playoff appearances this campaign.
22-year-old Akil Watts has been a two-way contributor for Hackworth’s squad, scoring six goals, adding seven assists, and logging over 2,200 minutes to date.
Midfielders Celio Pompeu, Vitor Dias, and Wan Kuzain will be key in CITY2’s midfield, totaling 16 goals and 13 assists between them to date. All three will try to counter Noah Fuson, Isaiah Parente, and Mo Farsi for Crew 2, who are Columbus’ top-three creative threats.
Dolling has contributed nine goals in the league and will be tasked once again with leading the offensive attack. The 24-year-old has scored four of his nine goals away from Ralph Korte Stadium, making him a dangerous threat in the air and on the ground for CITY2 to lead with.
Although CITY2 will have to deal with the home Crew 2 fans in Columbus, Hackworth’s men have had success picking up results away from home in 2022, leading the league with eight road victories. Crew 2’s 13-1-0 combined record at home this season has made them the best team on home soil, but something will have to give with the MLS NEXT Pro Cup on the line.