ST. LOUIS - The excitement on the training pitch and in the offices of World Wide Technology Soccer Park is palpable ahead of Saturday night's 2016 USL home opener.
"I can't wait to hear all those big gasps and 'oh's' from the fans." said midfielder Parker Maher when asked what he is looking forward to on Saturday.
Players and coaches who experienced last year's home opener can easily recall and anticipate what they will see from the crowd this year. From defender Sam Fink reminiscing on the inaugural St. Louligan march into the stadium – "That's hard not to notice and appreciate" added goalkeeper Mark Pais - to fellow defender Patrick Doody being "blown away" by the passion emanating from the stands, it was an easy walk down memory lane when discussing the inaugural home opener.
Assistant Coach Tim Leonard reflected on the amount of energy and enthusiasm shown during the team's walk from the Performance Training Center at the South end of the parking lot to the locker room area while passing through the tailgating section. "You see guys from all around town that you've known forever who have been looking forward to that day for so long and it all came together that night."
Goalkeeper Coach Brian Jones remembers being pleasantly surprised with the level of support right out of the gate. "It makes this year very exciting. You know what to expect and it's going to be fun."
"I remember all the excitement, the anticipation and the satisfaction that it came off without a hitch." said Executive Director Patrick Barry "It was rewarding that the fans were pleased with what we put in front of them."
Perhaps one of the more interesting storylines surrounding last year's home opener has to do with one of this year's recent roster additions. Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson will be on hand for the 2016 home opener with Saint Louis FC, but it won't be his first time experiencing a home opener at World Wide Technology Soccer Park. Thompson was in goal for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in last year's opener and his involvement still stands out for some.
"Ryan Thompson saving a shot from Lynch early in the second half, that's what stands out for me." quipped Head Coach Dale Schilly. "We had an opportunity to go up or pull even and he got down to his left and made a big save."
"I remember coming here and the atmosphere was crazy." said Thompson. "The supporters and fan base were unbelievable. Unfortunately, they didn't get the victory – sorry to come in and spoil the party at the time, but I can't wait to see a great performance from the team, get three points and start off on a good note."
Thompson wasn't able to stop every shot that night as newly signed midfielder Brandon Barklage lit the fuse that caused the stadium to explode when he scored the first home goal in Saint Louis FC history. "It was a special experience for me because my family was in the stands and they were excited to come out and watch me play." said Barklage. "I ended up getting the goal but we tied 1-1, so this year the main goal is to go out and get three points in front of the home crowd."
After opening the season with four road games, the anticipation of playing in front of a full stadium with the support of a city eager for the return of its game has the team ready to show the crowd how they have improved in the last year.
"I think we'll be more comfortable at home and I think we'll see a more potent attack." said Barklage. "We'll be clicking on all cylinders in the final third and you're going to see a more confident team in front of the home crowd."
A limited number of tickets remain for Saturday night's opener against the Tulsa Roughnecks at 7:30 p.m. Secure your tickets by clicking here, contact an Account Executive at 636.680.0997, email email@example.com or visit saintlouisfc.com for more information.