'Surreal moment' for St. Louis City's unlikely hero, a seven-year collegian

A year ago, Canadian Kyle Hiebert was preparing to begin his first season in MLS Next Pro, the new Division 3 league MLS launched in 2022.

With St. Louis City set to begin MLS play in 2023 and given an extra year to get ready because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it launched St. Louis City2.

Hiebert played all but four minutes in St. Louis City2's run to the MLS Next Pro's championship game. Little did anyone know how much it prepared Hiebert and his teammates for MLS.

St. Louis City has done what only one other MLS expansion team has ever done, matching the 2009 Seattle Sounders with wins in its first three games.

It added to that with another feat even more impressive — becoming the first MLS team to open the season with three straight come-from-behind wins.

After wins at Austin FC (3-2) and against Charlotte FC (3-1) in its home opener at CityPark, St. Louis City traveled to Portland and beat the Timbers, 2-1,

Hiebert, a defender, scored the unlikely gamewinner in 75th minute, converting a header from eight yards out to complete St. Louis City's comeback from 1-0 down after just three minutes.

"It was a surreal moment," Hiebert said of his first MLS goal. "To be honest. It's been a surreal couple of weeks, I’m just having a blast. This team is special. The locker room is special and to be able to get three points on the road was big time."

Hiebert, who was born in Winnipeg, is unique in that his college career spanned seven seasons— injury-related redshirt years in 2015 and 2016, plus five years that included the spring 2021 season and extra season in fall 2021 after the NCAA granted student-athletes an extra year of eligibility in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"He's just a gem on and off the field to work with," said St. Louis City coach Bradley Carnell. "He committed to everything we do every single day. And he's unassumingly so strong in the air, right? He uses his body very well. He's very fast on the backline to recover."

Carnell credited his staff that includes director of coaching John Hackworth, for finding Hiebert, undrafted out of Missouri State,

"He deserves to be playing in the MLS," he added, "after two years now of chasing and soul searching and wondering where the next step is for his career and playing out of college."

Hiebert, one of five St. Louis City players to have played every minute in the opening three wins, said the manner of the victories says a lot about the team.

"Every game we've had to show, you know, resilience that we can be a team that will keep fighting, a team that can come from behind and I think we showed that again today.," he said. "I think it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward, no matter what the situation is in the game we can be a team that fights and scraps and comes out with three points."

Hiebert was an MLS Next Pro Best XI selection on St. Louis City2, which was itself unique in that it included players like teenager Miguel Perez and Hiebert trying to break into the pros, players like Akil Watts trying to get a second chance, and established imports like Roman Buerki, Eduard Loewen and João Klauss biding their time after signing with the St. Louis City ahead of its MLS launch.

St. Louis City started five players from the 2022 St. Louis City2 team against Portland and had six on the field when Hiebert scored the winner.

"Those are my guys," the defender said. "So those are the guys I went through all of 2022 with. All the highs and lows and then to have them on in the last minutes as we were grinding out our third MLS win was just super special."

Photo: Bill Barrett/ISI Photos

24 comments about "'Surreal moment' for St. Louis City's unlikely hero, a seven-year collegian".
  1. Wallace Wade, March 13, 2023 at 9:16 a.m.

    Foreign Collegiate players receiving 7 years of eligibility is destroying American players ability to play NCAA College Soccer. How many talented American players were denied a scholarship and roster spot at Missouri State because of this player? I can tell you quite a few. The NCAA clearly doesn't realize or care what this type of thing is doing to the development of the American player! This is one of the biggest problems in the American game today and nobody wants to do anything about it or even discuss it. 

  2. humble 1 replied, March 13, 2023 at 10:40 a.m.

    Talking men's here.  First, Canadians are not really foreign.  I went to 'Winterpeg' on a bus for soccer games in my youth.  Second, do you think college soccer gets better if there are fewer players from abroad?  I do not.  Players from abroad in college helped make Hiebert the player he is.  So if you accept that the players from abroad on ability alone, have earned their spots, then it is on our mens academies to do a better job. Do you really want to knock level of play in our colleges to level of play on our academies? This for me would be very bad.  Careful what you ask for, law of unintended consequences is harsh.  Have a nice day.  

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, March 15, 2023 at 7:59 p.m.

    Mr. Wade:  I am sure that you're aware of the many other restrictions the ncaa places on potential "student-athletic recruits: which includes the high school grades, as well as sat/act entrance scores, as well as to whether the potential "stduent athlete" meets other criteria, in some if not many cases, whether an EOP or ethnicity criteria will factor in.  Further, a potential four-year student athlete, may be recruited successfully through a particular ncaa member program, and then there is the financial aide factors.  Lastly, since the ncaa instituted a "divisional" breakdown, e.g. Division I, II, III, it has been just a tad bit harder for a possible "foreign student athlete," to gain admission to a major university that fields a top-notch futbol-soccer program; and BTW, did you know that (unless I am wrong) some ncaa Div III programs/colleges-universities do not offer athletic scholarships?  Anyhow, just saying... PLAY ON!

  4. Wallace Wade, March 13, 2023 at 10:49 a.m.

    So, when you see Collegiate rosters with zero American players at State Universities, you think this helps American players? How about Foreign players that were playing as Full Professional's coming to the USA and playing D1 Collegiate Soccer. You don't have any problem with that? I could actually give specific examples of exactly this, because I know some players that have done just that. Just take a look at the D2 Championship match from this last season. How many American players do you count? 

  5. humble 1 replied, March 13, 2023 at 11:04 a.m.

    The later that you mention Wade - they are cheating - the players - maybe the program is complicant - that is not fair - but it seems to be accepted as part of the landscape with NCAA being a beauricracy and mens soccer being a small mutant in their portfolio that they tolerate but do not lose spend resouces on.

  6. Ric Fonseca replied, March 15, 2023 at 8:04 p.m.

    Mr. Wade:  Jeez, the very last time I heard of an ncaa program compleely comprised of foreign players, was in the late '60s and throughout the 70s, when ye gads, teams such as Univ of San Francisco, UCLA, San Jose State, and even UC Berkeley were "disparaged" when they went up against then "perennial" "All American" teams such as St. Louis Univ, and others from the east coast.  But you said the ncaa Div II just saw a "foreign team" compete in the finals?  Wasn't a California team, was it?

  7. humble 1, March 13, 2023 at 10:58 a.m.

    Seven years in college - now a pro - he was NOT sitting on his laurels.  That -
    would make a great story.  Missourie State is kind of a singular program in that it is in Springfield MO, the state capital, and, it is a public school, but, has a roster very heavy in players from abroad, almost none currently from MO.  It is not unusual at the public state programs to maintain some in-state roster spots.   Here no.  The Bears are always a good watch though ;-)

  8. Wooden Ships replied, March 13, 2023 at 2:27 p.m.

    Jefferson City is the Capital. No biggie. 

  9. humble 1 replied, March 14, 2023 at 10:17 a.m.

    [brain fart - thank you, I should know, I lived in MO a couple of years]

  10. humble 1, March 13, 2023 at 11:09 a.m.

    Hail to Hiebert!  Well done to him.  He's toiled in the
    trenches a long time to get his chance.  He is something of a local boy, probably a citizen by now, that was not covered, guessing on that, 7'years, is a
    long time, plus one, almost to
    9, the magic number.  Lets shut that can of worms we opened until SA writes on the topic.  

  11. R2 Dad replied, March 13, 2023 at 12:45 p.m.

    Personally I've had it to here with all these polite, educated Canadians coming to this country and diluting our pristine soccer culture. Enough!     /S, for any of you germans

  12. Wallace Wade, March 13, 2023 at 12:13 p.m.

    I'm not picking on or criticizing this particular player. I'm criticizing the NCAA and programs that have 32 year old goal keepers from Germany. No joke. It's clear that the NCAA doesn't give a rip about Mens College Soccer, and that's really bad for the American game. Ex-German professional's leading scoring in D1 Conferences. It's sad. Nobody seems to care, and then I get to try to explain to my talented players that play at the highest amateur level in this Country, that they can't even get a look at some of these schools because they don't recruit American players. What a joke. I guess I'm going to have to start telling these players to start training as a place kicker. That about what it's come to. Very sad situation for the young American soccer player. 

  13. R2 Dad replied, March 13, 2023 at 12:42 p.m.

    The only soccer entity worse than USSF is NCAA. 

  14. R2 Dad, March 13, 2023 at 12:48 p.m.

    I don't know who this guy is, but he's a 25 YO rookie with a 5 year MLS career instead of 12 years because the player development in North America is so bad/retarded. 

  15. Ric Fonseca replied, March 13, 2023 at 4:17 p.m.

    A very interesting article indeed, but to complaint about the ncaa granting this young guy a couple of years of extra eligibility, is pretty ludicrous.  Put this in your pipe and smoke it:  I was declared ineligible as an undergraduate at a four-year university because I'd been going to college too many years!  Reason, as I found out almost twelve years later?  I'd enrolled in a local community college immediatekly after graduating, but dropped out and went into the military foir three years!  The AD that declared me ineligible, did not take into consideration my military service, and thus I was declared ineligible!  And, oh yeah, this happened in the late '60's.  (FYI, the ncaa grants additional years of eligibility for religious, medical, and of course military service.)  Anyhow, just thought you guys might be interested... PLAY ON!!!

  16. Wallace Wade, March 13, 2023 at 6:28 p.m.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree. The question I guess is how close is everyone to the subject being discussed? If you believe NCAA Men's Collegiate Soccer should be inaccessible to young American players then so be it. I don't agree. If you believe this situation actually strengthens the game in this Country, once again I disagree. I will continue to stand up for the players in this Country and work to provide them the opportunities they deserve. Feel free to support State funded institutions of higher education to bring in players from Japan, 3 on the roster at last look to a small D2 school in Mobile Alabama. A laugh riot! Imagine what the Coaches of the early 1960's would think of the current state of affairs? I know

  17. R2 Dad replied, March 13, 2023 at 7:31 p.m.

    WW, it's kind of hard to get worked up about a couple speciifc policies of the NCAA when in fact their entire approach to soccer in this country is a big flaming dung heap of failure. 

  18. humble 1 replied, March 14, 2023 at 10:33 a.m.

    R2, that's pretty harsh.  If you judge it thru the lense of are they producing champions - on the women's side - they've done very well thank you.  On the mens side - it is more difficult, partly because of the womens success it make it hard to push changes thru because the women's side likes things just the way they are, and, guess who pays for all the world class facilities in college soccer, it is the girls, not thru the scholarship equivalent, but thru the INVESTMENT equivalent rule. So ladies rule college soccer whether you like it or not, and they have a good number of world cups, and they pay for all the facilities.  This is how it is.  On the men's side - what is not know - is that the NCAA quietly runs the largest amatuer league in the world, with world class facilities.  Remember, all the boys toiling in soccer, less than 1% have a chance to go pro.  They can, play four more years in college, have a chance to win conference, then conference championship and maybe play in national tournament, in 5 leagues that cross the nation.  This is something we should all be thankful for.  Now, let me finish, with a prediction, what is happening now, is that the girls academies have ramped up all over the world.  They are starting to produce technical players.  Where do those girls dream up playing when they are 18? In US colleges.  The number of girls coming from abroad is going up - every year.  When the girls decide enough is enough - it may come - but - like always - there will be programs - like Missouri State boys - that are almost 100% foreign rosters - they will not be on board - and in beaucracies like NCAA it is very difficult to force change when a large coalition is against you.  So, they longer they wait, the less likely they are to succeed.  This is why I say, in the end, it all comes back to US Academies - they have to become world class.  They are not now, even in MLS, 5 or less academies that consistently produce players that break thru to pro careers.  We've come a long way, we have a long way to go, this should be the focus, like a laser of USSF, not sure they are on it.  Best to all.  

  19. humble 1 replied, March 14, 2023 at 10:42 a.m.

    And let me add the reason I doubt the USSF - another beaucracy - because they what they call Youth Development - is really youth registration, league, and player fee collection entities, disguised as not-for-profits, but paying many across the USA nice little sums monthly, like annuities.  They have carved up the USA and fight like dogs if they smell any infringment on their terrritory.  At the micro level - it is the lease of fields.  They have errected barrier entry than any classically trained economist would recognize, such as the requirement to have 10 team and leased for ten full soccer fields to participate in a league.  There is only one reason for that requirement and only one - barrier to entry.  Youth Development as it is formed in the USSF is a classic oxymoron.  We need our own St. George to come a long and kill that beast.  Have a nice day!

  20. R2 Dad replied, March 15, 2023 at 5:09 p.m.

    Humble, I know you're not defending NCAA per se, but let's not give credit where it isn't due. Title IX was foisted on the universities, and NCAA was not a force in the creation of it. In addition, I don't think you can find a supporter of these inane 1970's rules in the sport like the countdown clock, substitions, and other relics. Is it really so hard to evolve into the LOTG like the rest of the planet? Despite your contention that only 1% of college players turn pro (so why should we care), we still need much better/higher quality coaches and I'd rather they come from the college ranks than some soccer dad who has a kid and no job. Give me a disgruntled ex-college player who wants to make a difference rather than some soccer dad who needs the money and must micromanage their child's team.

  21. Bob Ashpole, March 13, 2023 at 10:37 p.m.

    I have great dislike for the view that life is a zero-sum game. Especially for leaders. Another person's good fortune is not a threat to mine. But today's MAGA leaders sell the zero-sum game as a way to spread fear and energize support. "Send me money or your world will end". I particularly detest this claim: "I am the only one who can fix this."

    As for Canada, they were formally invited to be the 14th state in the Articles of Confederation. There is no friendlier border or longer unguarded border in the world. For generations North America has been jointly defended by both countries. To me Canadians are no more foriegn than someone from another state.

    Second the purpose of college sports is not to develop professional athletes, but to educate people. While individual coaches and athletic directors may have other objectives for their programs, those are not the institution's goals. Development of professional athletes is incidental to education. 

  22. humble 1 replied, March 14, 2023 at 10:45 a.m.

    Spot on Bob.  Thank you.  Word of reason.

  23. R2 Dad replied, March 15, 2023 at 5:13 p.m.

    Really Bob? Can't we just agree most politicians in DC are professional useless people? "But today's MAGA leaders sell the zero-sum game as a way to spread fear and energize support. 'Send me money or your world will end' " can just as easily be turned into "But today's DNC leaders sell the zero-sum game as a way to spread fear and energize support. "Send me money or Climate Change will end the world". It's all equally rediculous.

  24. humble 1 replied, March 16, 2023 at 1:53 p.m.

    It's true what you write R2 - both sides do it.  There is less honor - fewer principles - and- it cuts both ways.  William Proxmire, the Wisconsin Senator that never accepted cent for his reelection campaigns - could he exist today?  As for NCAA, like I write, they have their place, they are difficult to change, not perfect as you correctly point out, painful to watch at times, but, their programs are for men and women, voters, not our youth.  It is our youth system that is broke - and that - is on the USSF.  Look at US player participation in MLS - the trend is drastic to the negative.  I men it's a headline waiting to drop, there is a giant sucking sound, an exodus of Americans from MLS as Europeans have discovered they can do quiet well here, even if they do not have DP slot.  While, yes we have more players in Europe, and this is important, remember, the tip of your pyramid, your home league is the bellweather for the health of your youth scene.  Just ask the English, inventors of the game, with one WC, and, they have never won a European Chamionship.  The Haitian team that face Austin the other night, in Austin, 100% of their players, Haitan.  Austin started 4 Americans and one was coaches son.  Watch out, as European players are coming to USL now, too.  Our youth system is stuck.  A lot of folks taking money from 501c3 like anuities but not giving anything back.  Have a nice day.

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