Saint Louis FC beat Birmingham Legion 2-0 on Friday night with 2 goals from Tyler Blackwood. With the win, Saint Louis ended the 8-loss streak in away matches. The last time Saint Louis got a point away was in a scoreless tie against Louisville on May 18th. Saint Louis is now 9th in the conference and controls its own playoff destiny.
It was a difficult match on paper. Despite winning its last 3 matches and showing signs of improvement, the opponent was a Birmingham team on a 9-match undefeated streak that included victories against Tampa Bay and North Carolina. Birmingham won 3-2 when it visited Saint Louis back in April. Not only was the 9th position at stake but three points that could be the difference between qualifying for the postseason and going home into the off-season. Saint Louis played a great match defensively and offensively and came home with 3 points.
With the win, Saint Louis has 38 points and controls its fate. It is one point behind eight place which means a home game on the first round of the playoffs. Before the match against Ottawa Fury on August 23rd, I said Saint Louis had 12 finals to play. Five of those finals have been played with 4 wins and 1 loss and the team got 12 of the 21 points needed to get to 47 points which should put the team over the playoff line. A good part of the work has been done and the team is back in playoff positions. Now what?
The first of the seven matches Saint Louis has left will be at home against New York Red Bulls II this Wednesday. It will be one of the toughest home games of the season but it will also be an opportunity to show what Saint Louis could do in the postseason. Saint Louis put itself back in contention with 4 wins in a row and showed it can beat the top teams of the conference when it beat Nashville. A tie against New York could be a good result but a win will move Saint Louis closer to the postseason and show the top teams that Saint Louis could be a tough opponent in the postseason. With a win against New York and a tie or loss by Ottawa in its match against Tampa Bay, Saint Louis would take the 8th position. It would also keep Saint Louis close in the standings to Louisville which has to play New York and Tampa Bay before coming to Saint Louis on October 5th with the Kings Cup and maybe the 7th position at stake.
There is still work to do but Saint Louis depends on Saint Louis. Good play and results arrived just in time for the last part of the season. Masta Kacher, Collin Fernandez and Tyler Blackwood joined the team mid-season and have been important in the turnaround. With more players available, Anthony Pulis rotated lineups when the team had 3 matches in six days and the outcome was 3 wins. There is a team not only to qualify but to make it far in postseason. Still some points away but if the team plays like it did the last 4 matches it will get to the postseason where anything can happen.