With all three teams in action this weekend we managed to trade questions for all three. FC Kansas City is back home and facing the Houston Dash while Sporting Kansas City is in Houston taking on Brad's former club and the Swope Park Rangers are across the state at Saint Louis FC.
In this installment Matthew Bird of St. Louligans answered our questions.
The Blue Testament: Saint Louis FC started with a pair of losses but managed results in the next four (W-D-D-W) and all but one on the road. Did the team improve or play easier opposition? And does that bode well for a strong finish in the league?
Matthew: I think the start of the season was brutal. The flood we had over the New Year facilitated we start on the road, and what a start it was. The Real Monarchs result was crushing to lose in the last minute, and as abject as the LA Galaxy 2 performance was I don't think many teams will be going there and getting points. In preseason I saw the team was much improved from last year and the win at OC Blues and Sacramento wasn't too surprising for me. We're very good it seems at weathering the storm and hitting teams on the break. The only blight was dropping points to Tulsa at home, they've been pretty poor this season but came to us and parked 9 guys behind the ball and we struggled to break them down. I do think the western conference is very strong. I think we'll be competitive and I would like to think the chemistry will improve as the season progresses.
The Blue Testament: How has the relationship with the Chicago Fire been so far? Knowing the St. Louis fans relationship with Chicago in general (Cards/Cubs and Blues/Blackhawks) has it felt a little odd getting help from the Fire?
Matthew: The relationship I think has been very good. Last year especially Patrick Doody and Alec Kann were big successes here. Chicago Fire seem to encourage players to come down for long stints, to feel part of the team and gel with the rest of the guys and get serious minutes under their belts. That said when we need bodies they are good to step in and fill a void. Patrick McLain is a perfect example coming in as an emergency goalkeeper loan at Sacramento when our two keepers were down. You're right about the sporting rivalry, we're not keen on them and them on us. The club has been quick to distinguish that nobody needs to make Chicago their MLS team just because of this arrangement.
The Blue Testament: I know it will come down to a stadium and decent ownership but has the fan support been enough to show MLS that the city deserves a team? What is the vibe, will we have a cross-state MLS rival soon?
Matthew: As a stand alone statement, Saint Louis has deserved an MLS team for 20 years. It can support a winning team no doubt.
The STLFC front office has never made any other ambition known other than to be the best USL team they can be. I think many here in Saint Louis have seen too many false dawns with regards MLS to get their hopes up. That said, the vibe is good I think. There was a lot of initial chatter immediately after the Rams left and now it has subsided. I think it is fair to go on the premise that no news is good news.