The first train pulled into Union Station on September 2, 1894 at 1:45pm, ushering in a new and exciting time for St. Louis. The city known for being the gateway to the West suddenly became a gateway to all of America. Over the next several years, Union Station would become one of the largest and busiest passenger rail terminals in the world.
Here’s an experiment: a semi-regular, ritualistic exercise in flexing those writing muscles that feel oh-so atrophied lately. A test of discipline, of shooting at the goal when the goal isn’t in sight (or frankly, doesn’t exist). An excuse to write about Saint Louis FC, and watch a metric ton of soccer and feel productive anyway, thank you very much.
The “Americanization” of the game in St. Louis was also reflected in the style of soccer played there. Because of the British influence, teams in the Northeast played a style modeled on the then-ascendant Scottish passing game, also adopted by the best Central European teams. St. Louis, in contrast, developed a fast-paced, concussive, kick-and-run style based on episodic sprinting and explosiveness — inspired, oddly enough, by baseball.
I don’t plan on making detailed posts on transfers, or game breakdowns so heavy with statistics they sink into the mud at Soccer Park. I will (probably) (begrudgingly) write about the sabres being rattled and fingers being crossed over promotion to League-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Even if this spot, whatever it becomes, is named Union Station Soccer, I don’t plan on solely focusing on the push for a top-tier team being awarded to St. Louis – it’s deeper than that. It’s about one of the oldest traditions of soccer anywhere this side of the Atlantic (and uh, north of the Rio Grande, I suppose). It’s about thousands of kids, from O’Fallon to Edwardsville, out kicking on crisp Saturday mornings. It’s about knowing who the Steamers were, and decades-long crushes on Preki. It’s about saying “there’s the Arch” every time you see the Arch.
The gorgeous Grand Hall was the main waiting room. Its 65-foot barrel vaulted ceiling featured an elegant two-ton wrought-iron chandelier with 350 light bulbs. Inspired by the walled city of Carcassone in southern France, architect Theodore C. Link designed an elegant and modern version of a feudal passageway. And the midway was the real place to see. The platform, surrounded by a highly admired steel and glass wall decorated with ornamental wrought iron gates, held an exciting view of the trains coming and going. When America entered WWII, both the chandelier and the midway wall were sacrificed to the war efforts.
It’s about remembering that a not-so-long time ago, St. Louis was a thriving, energized city full of industry, promise, and a whole lot of soccer-crazy immigrants and Americans alike. The former may have dissolved away with the 20th century, but the city still has soccer in spades, and, arguably, that holds some incredible promise as well.
Every U.S. team in World Cup history has included at least one St. Louisan on its roster, and 29 St. Louisans have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
The U.S. team for the 1950 World Cup, which defeated England 1–0 in one of the most noted upsets in World Cup history, had five of the eleven players on the team from St. Louis, including many from the historically Italian neighborhood of The Hill.
All signs point to 2017 being one of the most noteworthy, potentially turbulent year St. Louis soccer has seen…ever? Since the Ambush were re-started? (I may not talk X’s and O’s, but you bet I’ll make you listen to Ambush talk. Call it my indoor, turf-lined soft spot.) Whatever the Governor-Elect shouts from his denim soapbox in Jefferson City, whatever Preki can do to turn around STLFC this season, whatever happens – I’m excited to be along for the ride.
And who knows? Maybe this little experiment will give me a good excuse to write about soccer (excuse me, football) (excuse me, fútbol) in all its shapes and sizes, to communicate what I find interesting or noteworthy at any given moment (my other squad, Red Star FC, finds itself in a relegation battle over in France, and their historic stadium lends its name to this blog. I’ll introduce them soon; expect to hear about them ~almost~ as much as the Ambush). Maybe it will just be a nice distraction from graduate school. Maybe it will let me make cool things and share them with you. Maybe this little experiment will grow into something important, something to really pour the mind and soul into.
More to come.
All fleur one. (And Forza Ambush.)