LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Saint Louis FC sees their 2020 season and playoff run coming to an end, as they lose on the road in Louisville. They would lose 2-0 against Louisville City FC Saturday in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the USL Championship.
Unfortunately, due to the impacts of COVID-19, this also marks the end of the USL Championship team after six seasons.
Louisville opens the scoring in the 18th minute when Cameron Lancaster held his run at the back post to receive a cross from Antoine Hoppenot. He would finish on the volley past goalkeeper Kyle Morton for his twelfth goal of the season.
There were some favorable moments for Saint Louis as well. Tyler Blackwood had an early opportunity in the eighth minute. However, his volley following a throw-in would result in a Benjamin Lundt save.
Blackwood would receive another chance in the box for a penalty kick. However, the ensuing effort which was taken by Wal Fall would result in another Lundt save in minute 12.
In minute 21, Saint Louis tried to equalize immediately, as Sam Fink headed home a free-kick brought in by Todd Wharton. Unfortunately, it would be chalked off as offsides.
Morton would take some action in minute 28 to deny a Hoppenot shot. He would also calmly catch a dangerous shot from Corben Bone in the 39th minute.
A late flurry from set-pieces would give Tobi Adewole an opportunity from a corner kick routine, but his attempt would hit the crossbar. This would result in Louisville holding a 1-0 advantage heading into half time.
Saint Louis would press for an equalizer in the second half and nearly got it in the 56th minute. Paris Gee played a beautiful ball to Wharton running unopposed at the back post. However, the shot would be smothered by Lundt.
Morton would make another spectacular save in minute 79, denying Bone from outside the box.
Louisville would double their advantage in minute 83 as Paolo DelPiccolo swings in a free-kick from the box edge. Unfortunately, Adewole would head it from close range in the wrong direction and into the back of their net. That forced error would extend the lead to two.
Saint Louis would continue pressing for a goal and fight to the final whistle. However, they couldn’t make the breakthrough as full time would elapse to end their season.
Louisville advances to the Eastern Conference final of the USL Championship playoffs. They host the Tampa Bay Rowdies next Saturday.
“I want to thank the organization and the fans for a tremendous season,” said STLFC head coach Steve Trittschuh. “The players were a thrill to work with and they performed on the field.”
“The support of this club and the support of the fans will always be a great memory,” Trittschuh adds. “Thank you, STLFC!”
End of an era
The ownership announced in August that the team would cease operations at the end of the 2020 season.
On May 1, 2014, USL would award a franchise to St. Louis. The franchise would start league play in 2015. In its first five seasons, the club would rack up a 50-60-48 record. Due to COVID-19, USL Championship had to restructure the competition format. As a result, Saint Louis FC was 4-3-2 in Group E and sat in second place.
The club would make a historical run during the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, reaching the quarterfinals. They would eventually lose to eventual champion Atlanta United.
“Naturally, we are disappointed that the club will not continue,” states president Patrick Barry. “However, we are proud of what we have accomplished and the impact we have had on soccer in St. Louis and the community-at-large.”
“Our goal was to bring professional soccer back to St. Louis, re-establish St. Louis at the national level and give back to our community,” adds Barry. “We accomplished all of that and much more.”
“Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 during 2020 and beyond make it too difficult to continue operations,” said CFO Tom Strunk. “We’re sad to see STLFC come to an end but are proud of what we and our supporters have accomplished.”
“Our collective hard work to bring professional soccer back to our city has been extremely rewarding,” adds Strunk. “Lastly, I’d like to personally thank the St. Louligans for their support, friendship, and the memories over the past six years.”
“I want to personally thank all of our corporate partners, fans and, of course, the St. Louligans,” said CEO Jim Kavanaugh. “Collectively, we created something special that brought the St. Louis soccer community alive again.”
St. Louis isn’t completely removed from USL
While the top-tier franchise in the USL Championship is ceasing operations, USL still has a presence. Since 1996, the St. Louis Lions have been a fixture in USL League Two.
Currently, there are no press releases from either the club or the league stating the franchise is any danger.
Outside of the USL, St. Louis has a presence in the National Premier Soccer League and Major Arena Soccer League.
Kavanaugh continues his legacy as part of new MLS team
As reported earlier this year, Kavanaugh is one of the minority owners of the new Major League Soccer team in St. Louis, St. Louis CITY SC.
However, due to COVID-19, the much-anticipated debut in 2022 was given an additional year delay to 2023.
However, by then, it is not certain whether Kavanaugh would attempt to revive the now-former USL Championship championship. Should it return in 2023, it could potentially work into a partnership with St. Louis CITY SC.
In the meantime, no one from the ownership team has returned our requests for comment on that potential option.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.