Logan Ndenbe moved into the 2023 MLS playoffs without scoring a professional goal. He had played 48 games for Sporting Kansas City and dozens more in Belgium and France. As a left-back who literally never scores, he was an unlikely hero – and his team SKC, which started the season winless for two and a half months, was once an unlikely playoff disruptor.
But this is Major League Soccer, the height of chance.
Of course, Sporting KC knocked St. Louis City FC, the Western Conference champions, out of these playoffs on Sunday.
The West’s No. 8 seed swept the top seeds in straight sets, with wins on consecutive weekends and a total of six goals – including two from Ndenbe.
For much of the last eight months, St. Louis had enjoyed a dream, record-breaking inaugural season. His fans were invariably packed in CityPark. His unheralded players stormed to the top of the table and never looked back, securing number 1 with weeks to go.
But then, in Round 1 of the league’s bloated playoffs, it succumbed to a classic MLS fate.
Only one top seed even reached the MLS Cup between 2012 and 2021. The two conference winners won an average of just over one postseason game per year. St. Louis has won zero in 2023.
There was a three-game series and with it a second chance after SKC’s 4-1 defeat last Sunday. But it couldn’t take that risk. Ndenbe scored a great goal just before halftime to give Kansas City the lead. Daniel Salloi made it 2-0 midway through the second half.
St. Louis picked up a goal, but not two. And the MLS newcomers failed.