March 23, 2023
Canadian defender Kyle Hibert sparks hot start in MLS for St. Louis City FC

Canadian defender Kyle Hibert sparks hot start in MLS for St. Louis City FC

Sitting atop the Western Conference after three straight wins, St. Louis City FC’s expansion has been the story of the young MLS season.

Canadian defender Kyle Hiebert has done his part, playing every minute so far and scoring the 75th-minute winner in Saturday’s 2-1 win in Portland.

“Honestly, it’s been a few weeks,” said Mann, 25, from LaSalle. “Every game was special in its own way … I am very thankful to this club and this team that they gave me a chance. I am honored to be on the field representing them in every match.”

St. Louis opened life in MLS with a 3-2 win at Austin FC before losing 3-1 to Charlotte FC in front of 22,423 active fans at CityPark, its new US$458 million soccer stadium.

St. Louis is only the second franchise in league history, joining the Seattle Sounders, to win its first three games. It is also the first MLS club to record three straight wins since Los Angeles Galaxy in August 2015 – and the only team to do so in the first three games of a season.

St. Louis looks to become the first franchise team to win its first four games when it hosts San Jose (2-1-0) on Saturday. The Earthquakes have recorded just one win in 20 road trips (1-13-6) in all competitions since the start of last season.

Hiebert has partnered Tim Parker at the heart of a backline with plenty of Canadian ties. Parker and fullback Jake Nerwinski are both former Vancouver Whitecaps.

Fullback John Nelson is the other member of the back four ahead of Switzerland goalkeeper Roman Berki.

Hiebert is no stranger to Show Me State. He attended Missouri State in Springfield, about 350 kilometers southwest of the city, and his wife was from St. Louis.

Despite a stellar collegiate career — he was named Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year three times — Hiebert did not receive an invite to the MLS Combine.

“At the time I had no plans, I didn’t have an agent,” he recalled. “You want the pro teams to come to you.”

That’s what happened next. John Hackworth, now a St. Louis assistant coach and later coach of St. Louis City FC 2, coached St. Louis in the MLS Next Pro League before launching the MLS team. Louis contacted him with an offer to play for the reserve team.

“It’s not like a one- or two-week trial,” Hiebert said. “It was a one-year pro deal and it was like a one-year trial.”

St. Louis fans wasted little time welcoming the new franchise, and Hiebert’s first game for the reserve team last year drew a crowd of 6,000 at Hermann Stadium on the campus of St. Louis University.

Hiebert made the most of the opportunity, playing 2,726 of 2,730 minutes over all 29 games and being named to MLS NEXT Pro’s Best XI.

Last August he signed a two-year contract with the first team with an option for 2025.

There has been a vacancy at centre-back this season with Sweden international Joachim Nilsson recovering from a long-term knee injury. Another option is St. Hiebert’s partner last season with Louis City 2 was Josh Yaro.

The players have also benefited from the club’s infrastructure, with a stadium, team headquarters, training center and practice fields all in one centralized city.

“Everything is new. It’s cutting edge,” Hiebert said.

The club boasts that no seat at CityPark is more than 120 feet (37 m) from the pitch.

“So no one is far from the field or the action,” Hiebert said. “You can feel it and you can hear it during the game. A palpable energy comes from all sides. “

Hiebert attributed the expansion team’s success in part to the early signing of many first-team players, allowing them to train or play with last year’s reserve team.

“It then gave the city a chance to acclimate and settle in,” Hiebert said. “We started to get to know them and build those friendships and those bonds. And personally, when all of them came, the training level went up. So it makes us all better as players. “

The players designated by St. Louis are German midfielder Eduard Lowen and Brazilian forward Joao Klaus.

Hiebert had a rough start to his college career at Missouri State, missing both the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to knee injuries.

He redshirted in 2015 after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. His comeback was delayed in 2016 when he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Bears’ final preseason game at Creighton.

When healthy, Hibert made 86 starts for Missouri State.

In 2019, he was part of a record-breaking Missouri State team that went 16-0-0 in the regular season and won the college’s first NCAA Tournament game (against the University of Denver).

Hiebert was twice named one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which goes to the top NCAA player.

Outside of the field, Hiebert holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting with a data analytics in accounting certificate.

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