Jonathan Bell got his first playing time with St. Louis City SC on Tuesday, coming on as a substitute in the 71st minute of the team’s 5-1 win over Union Omaha in the U.S. Open Cup.
After offseason hernia surgery, the defender has struggled to just get on a game-day roster. His first was Saturday against Colorado.
“He’s been working hard,” Carnell said on Wednesday. “Hasn’t got a bunch of looks in training and even in with the competitive squads on sparring days. JB earned it yesterday to get on the field. We just have to keep working principles with JB and he needs to feel confidence in his application and his body. So once he develops that, then the confidence can start to develop and what better way than (up 4-0) to get him in. Really happy for him.”
Bell subbed in for midfielder Indiana Vassilev, which then meant some juggling of the players to make everything work. Akil Watts moved from right back into the midfield and Josh Yaro, wearing the captain’s armband, slid over to be right back.
“I’ve never played as a right back in a game, so that was new,” Yaro said. “As a player, you have to be flexible, so I said OK. I went and did the best I could. Did I play as well as a natural right back would? I don’t know. But there are points in life and points in games where you have to do whatever you can for the team, and that was one of those moments. I’m happy I got to try a different position. I got to do what I’m asked and that’s what it was.”
It seemed almost like a bit of overkill when Carnell subbed in midfielder Eduard Lowen with City SC up 4-0 in the 70th minute. Lowen is one of the best players on City SC, and has already been talked about as a newcomer of the year candidate. Five minutes later, on came Jared Stroud, another frequent starter.
Carnell didn’t have a lot of options. Teams can dress only 18 players for Open Cup games, and Carnell wasn’t taking any chances. While his regulars were going to get the night off, he wanted some close at hand in case of emergency. “We needed to have a what-if moment,” Carnell said. “What if we go down and we get stuck somehow?”
So with Indiana Vassilev needing to come out in the second half, Lowen was one of the few options. And Lowen wanted to play.
“Edu came to us and said he feels really good. He would like to play,” Carnell said. “So that’s one you put in the bank and get him on. ... Stroud comes in. He’s very durable. He’s very reliable. He’s on a great run of form. He’s playing with high spirits and at a high level and I think you can see the injection of pace and the injection of transitional ability to play in tight spaces when those guys come on, they do take us up another level against a tired backline.”
Between games on Saturday and Tuesday, just about everyone on the first team got in one of them. The exceptions were homegrown forward Caden Glover, top draft pick Owen O’Malley and injured third-string goalie Michael Creek.
Glover has been training with City2 and missed some time with a calf strain.
“Caden’s progressing nicely,” Carnell said. “He’s got a few minutes now and we still need him to be sharp and fit at City2 before we lead him into this group. He had a great experience with us in preseason and now he’s on the way up, so the pathway’s looking good, the curve is going in the right direction and you’ll see him out here with us pretty soon.”
O’Malley is still developing.
“Owen O’Malley is in a process with us, he’s in a process with himself right now,” Carnell said. “We’re trying to give him all the support that he needs. But it first starts with a commitment right now to City2. There’s a bunch of guys there that are emptying the tank every single day. We need to push Owen O’Malley. He has a great upside he has a great ceiling. But we need to get him to that moment.”
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