St. Louis City looks to extend perfect MLS start: 'We're enjoying what we're doing'

St. Louis City head coach Bradley Carnell has challenged his players to keep improving as they look to extend their perfect start to the Major League Soccer season against unbeaten Minnesota United on Saturday.

The Missouri expansion team has made a flying start to its debut season in MLS, winning five-out-of-five to open up a five-point lead at the top of the Western Conference standings.

A 4-0 victory away at Real Salt Lake last weekend was just the latest in a series of impressive performances by St. Louis, which is one of only three teams in MLS history to open the season with five straight wins.

Carnell, the former South Africa international defender, is in no mood to let his squad rest on its laurels, however, revealing his staff and players are constantly looking for areas where they can improve.

"We know there's things to work on and improve," Carnell said this week.  "Even when things are going well, we try to make a point of finding things that aren't going so well. So even if on the outside everything looks perfect, we're still trying to keep on pushing the envelope on the inside."

Infused with confidence after their perfect start to the season, Carnell says his players have bought into the quest for higher standards. 

"It's not so easy to do, but when you get it right it becomes a thing of joy,” Carnell said. "I see a lot of positive things happening right now with this group and it's on us to keep them hungry and motivated.

"The ambitions need to be high –- because if you just accept 5-0 then you will stay at 5-0. So your ambitions keep growing with you."

Carnell says winning has also given his players a sense of "swagger."

"The boys are having fun," Carnell said. "And if you don’t come to work having a little bit of fun, then you're in the wrong profession. It's never arrogance. We're still humble. But we're enjoying what we're doing. Just like in the cycle of life right now, we're enjoying the moment. Every day for us is a celebration."

Minnesota is unbeaten after four games, and stands fourth in the Western Conference, seven points adrift of St.Louis.

Elsewhere this weekend, Atlanta United will look to bounce back from last week's thumping 6-1 defeat at Columbus when the New York Red Bulls visit on Saturday.

The international window deprived Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda of seven players called up on international duty, with a makeshift line-up given a torrid time by Columbus.

However, the bulk of Atlanta's international contingent will be back on duty this weekend, including rising Argentine star Thiago Almada.

Almada, a member of the South Americans' World Cup-winning squad, has been in dazzling form for Atlanta this season with four goals and four assists in four games, and also scored for Argentina in last week's friendly win over Panama.

Atlanta's loss last week saw the Five Stripes knocked off top spot in the Eastern Conference, with New England Revolution and Cincinnati bumping them into third place.

New England will host seventh-place New York City on Saturday while Cincinnati entertain Inter Miami.

Back in the Western Conference, reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC will look to close the gap on St.Louis when it faces the Colorado Rapids, who are bottom of the Western Conference with two points from five games.


© Agence France-Presse

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