A hectic week-plus for City2 comes to an end Sunday with an MLS Next Pro match against Minnesota United 2 at SLU’s Hermann Stadium at 7 p.m. It will be City2’s third game in nine days, starting with a league match against Sporting KC II last Sunday and with a U.S. Open Cup match, that went to overtime, against Louisville City in between.
“It’s gonna be a mental and physical challenge, for sure,” said City2 coach John Hackworth. “Our roster and our depth is going to be tested because you’re going to see some rotation in our lineup for the third game in a row out of necessity. You don’t play three games like this in a week, especially the way we are trying to play. For our professional athletes or any athletes around the world, the type of grind is really difficult. Hopefully some fresh legs will come in and provide us a big boost and get us back on track.”
One change will be forced upon City2. Midfielder Max Schneider got a red card for shoving an official in the SKC II game, which got him an automatic one-game suspension for City2’s next MLS Next Pro game, and then the league’s disciplinary committee gave him an additional two-game suspension, plus a fine. (Because it’s a different competition, Schneider was able to play in the Open Cup match on Wednesday.)
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“We’ve played Akil Watts (there), Sergio Rivas came on against Louisville and did a really good job,” Hackworth said. “We have Kwame Awuah who could go in there, so we will have to balance that out. Max will be missed for sure, but it’s something we have no control over at this point and just have to trust that the guys coming in will do a good job for us.
“This has been an example of when you lose a player to an injury or in this case a red card and multiple-game suspension, it just creates an opportunity for guys behind them to step up and that’s exactly what we’re going to need over these next three games.”
Schneider, a midfielder from Cologne, Germany, who played collegiately at Marshall, started four of City2’s first five games, being kept out of the starting lineup in the SKC II game to be ready for the Open Cup match. He scored a goal against Tacoma.
At 3-0, City2 is one of only two MLS Next Pro teams that are unbeaten and untied. (Houston Dynamo 2 is the other.) Minnesota United 2 is 2-2 and is coming off a 4-0 win over Colorado Rapids 2. Since City2 is one of only two Next Pro teams that took part in the Open Cup, MNUFC2 has been off since last week.
Overall, City2 is 4-0-1 since its Open Cup elimination by Louisville City was decided by penalty kicks and goes into the books as a tie.
“Overall, we’re really proud of our guys,” Hackworth said of the 0-0 tie. “Especially some of the young guys that came on in that game and played some really important minutes and had a really positive impact. Any time you go to PKs it’s a crapshoot but I thought we did a really good job. We had some young guys hit some big-time PKs and gave ourselves an opportunity to be successful, even in the PKs. It didn’t go our way at the end of the day, but I think we have to proud of the fact that we went to arguably the best team in the USL, went nose to nose with them, didn’t give up a goal in 120 minutes plus, played on a big field on a big stage. Overall, an invaluable experience for our team overall.”
It also marked the first time City2 hadn’t scored in a game.
“We were poor in attacking transition,” Hackworth said, “and therefore didn’t give ourselves a chance to create the true moments and that’s where looking back at it, we have to get better at those moments. And it is difficult. We are so pro-active when we are pressing and re-pressing that it’s a mental shift when you now have the ball and need a bit of composure, need a bit of quality, to pick the team apart. In a game like that, you’re not going to get a lot of chances, so when you do get chances to get in behind, or to have a moment to really penetrate them, we need a little better quality. I think we can evolve in a real positive way going forward, but that is a tough thing to do and we understand it and know it’s an area we have to improve.”
Only one City2 player, defender Kyle Hiebert played all of the minutes in both games. The others that started both games, like Watts, Wan Kuzain and Celio Pompeu, came out early in one game, and others, like captain Josh Yaro, didn’t start one game but instead came in as a sub in the other.
As will be the case with most all Next Pro opponents this season, who Minnesota will send is uncertain.
“They’re a good team and a very athletic team,” Hackworth said, “a team that so far has not been fearful of putting down some top first team players into the Next Pro and I think that’s what we’re going to see. It’s difficult to know exactly who will show up here, but we’ve seen in their previous games that they definitely are rotating rosters and sending key players down from the first team.”
This game has been chosen as Next Pro's game of the week, so the broadcast feed on mlsnextpro.com will have additional cameras.