Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath knows a bit about St. Louis City's unexpected 5-0 start.
"Well, I've done it twice," Heath said. "I know about being an expansion team."
Just not quite like this.
Heath knows well the tribulations of starting an expansion team the traditional way, with plenty of pain and patience along the way. He did it coaching Orlando City to playoffs' edge in 2015 and the Loons to a 10-18-6 record two years later when they were outscored 11-2 in the first two games.
St. Louis City has started its inaugural season with a winning streak in which it has beaten Charlotte and San Jose at home and won at Austin, Portland and Real Salt Lake, by a 15-4 goal differential.
"Those aren't easy places to go get a result," Heath said.
Heath calls St. Louis' instant success a "perfect storm" of circumstances: The expansion team hired its top management as much as 2 ½ years early, then solidly if unspectacularly built around a pair of gifted 26-year-old designated players: Brazilian 6-3 forward João Klauss and German midfielder Eduard Löwen have played everywhere from the Bundesliga to Belgium, Austria and Finland.
"They've shown a blueprint for it," Heath said. "They thought long and hard about the process of getting the group together. It's obviously a really good group playing with a lot of confidence."
Klauss has scored five of those 15 goals, second only to Jordan Morris' seven for Seattle. At least two in each of St. Louis City's first two games were absolutely gifted by the opposition.
St. Louis leads the Western Conference by five points over second-place Seattle and Los Angeles FC.
"This market knows how difficult it is being an expansion team," Loons captain and veteran midfielder Wil Trapp said, referring to Minnesota. "Being 5-0, it's pretty amazing."
The club hired Lutz Pfannenstiel as sporting director in August 2020. The former goalkeeper, coach, TV analyst and scout played more than 500 games for 25 different clubs in all six FIFA confederations worldwide. He's the only man who has ever done that.
In January 2022, he hired Bradley Carnell, a former South African defender who played in Germany and most recently was a New York Bulls assistant and interim coach.
Before the season started, Carnell vowed his team would be competitive and play with a style and intensity that opponents "will not enjoy" coming to St. Louis.
Heath calls St. Louis City a team with "very much a Red Bulls DNA." They press hard, play narrow and through Krauss, whom Heath simply calls "the big man."
The Loons, LAFC and Cincinnati are the only other three MLS teams who remain unbeaten.
The Loons on Saturday play St. Louis City in its gleaming new $458 million, 22,500-seat capacity, soccer-specific CityPark stadium in the city's Downtown West district. The club received 30,000 season-ticket deposits in the first 15 minutes they went on sale in September 2020.
St. Louis City has remained unbeaten and is already beloved in a city that has been an American soccer hotbed for generations, since at least the 1950 World Cup.
Five St. Louisans helped the U.S. stun mighty England in that World Cup won by Uruguay in Brazil. Saint Louis University has won 10 NCAA men's soccer titles, and the Hermann Trophy that designates the nation's top men's and women's college player is awarded in St. Louis annually by the Missouri Athletic Club.
And now St. Louis City has an unbeaten MLS expansion team 28 years after the league debuted, now led by the first female majority ownership in league history.
It won its first game 3-2 when a former Austin teammate inexplicably played the ball into his own 18-yard penalty box directly to St. Louis midfielder Jared Stroud, who simply turned and kicked the ball past the goalkeeper for the tying goal in the 78th minute.
Trapp called it "certainly one of the weirdest goals I've ever seen."
In the 86th minute, Klauss scored the winner on a cutting 40-yard run he finished fabulously with the outside of his right foot. The next week, he scored again when a Charlotte player rolled the ball right to him.
"When you're pressing and pressing and press the ball, players start to overthink their decisions, right?" Trapp asked. "They create a little bit of chaos and it pushes players into doing things that certainly they normally wouldn't do."
Yet Heath isn't ready to declare St. Louis City the best MLS expansion team ever.
Atlanta United entered the league flush with cash the same 2017 season as the Loons did, went 2-1-2 in its first five games and 15-9-10 its first season. Atlanta finished third in the East that year with such stars as Héctor Villalba, Josef Martínez, Julian Gressel and Miguel Almirón.
The next year, they won the 2018 MLS Cup.
"I don't think there's ever been a better expansion team," Heath said. "That was one of the better teams I've seen in this league. We're five games in; let's see where we are. They've got a long way to go to catch Atlanta yet."