Sam Adeniran had just finished training with San Antonio FC last Thursday when his phone started buzzing. It was his agent. There was good news to share.
St. Louis CITY SC had just recalled Adenrian from his two-month loan to the USL side, his agent told him. With injured striker João Klauss sidelined for another month with a quad injury, CITY needed the 24-year-old forward to help replenish its attacking depth.
And the club needed Adeniran on a plane to San Jose, California in a matter of hours.
“From there,” Adeniran says, “it’s pretty much just pack my bags as quick as I can.”
Before his call-up, CITY fans last saw Adeniran during a cameo on April 9. He had appeared in only four matches for the club before it loaned him to San Antonio in late April. The loan was expected to last for the duration of the season, but circumstances demanded otherwise. With Klauss’ return timeline recently extended until at least next month, CITY needed another striker to help carry the load.
Enter Adeniran, who made a grand reintroduction with CITY on Saturday in Northern California. Adeniran tallied both goals in St. Louis’ 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, including his first strike at the MLS level.
“It was fun to watch,” Carnell says.
Indeed it was, as Adeniran earned a spot on MLS’ Team of the Matchday, and joined Klauss, Aziel Jackson, and Indiana Vassilev as the only CITY players to post a multi-goal game across all competitions this season. Adeniran, who helped SAFC to a USL Championship title last year, enjoyed a productive loan to the Alamo City, scoring four goals and recording one assist over six starts prior to his call-up.
In retrospect, CITY sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel may not have arranged the loan if it was known that Klauss’ injury would hold him out of the lineup as long as it has. Klauss hasn’t played since April 23. Then again, the loan seemed to benefit Adenrian, who was able to talk time to reset his season in a place where he was already comfortable. Although Adeniran ran with the opportunity, he was eager for the chance to prove himself at the MLS level.
“I just wanted to play,” Adeniran says. “Didn’t matter where; I just wanted to play. The club felt that the USL was a good place for me to go get minutes and get fit and sharp. They called me back and I’m grateful that they did. I’m grateful that I can help the team.”
Adeniran boarded his flight from San Antonio on Friday morning and met the team in San Jose in time for dinner. By the time CITY fans found out about his recall early Saturday, it was clear he would have a spot in the starting lineup. Carnell deployed a fresh look against an Earthquakes squad that had not lost at home since last August, managing the minutes of Vassilev, Niko Gioacchini, Jake Nerwinski, and Lucas Bartlett. That allowed Adeniran, Jackson, and Josh Yaro to each make their first starts for CITY.
“[These guys are] knocking on the door, training hard, emptying the tank, keeping their nose clean, heads down, and working hard,” Carnell says.
No one epitomizes those principles as much as Adeniran, who earned admiration from those with the club who appreciated the way he handled his loan. Adeniran’s two goals Saturday night were his first and second career MLS goals, but his celebration—or lack thereof—might have convinced a new viewer that finding the back of the net was commonplace for the striker. He made scoring look natural.
His first strike came off a well-earned corner attempt. Rasmus Alm delivered the ball at a perfect level for Adeniran to rise up and head the ball into the far corner. Adeniran’s second goal would come after Jackson’s vision and hustle won a penalty kick for St. Louis.
“AZ is like my best friend,” Adeniran says. “He’s an amazing player. He’s just so quick on the ball. He contributed so well by winning that penalty.”
Adeniran—or “Big Sam,” as his teammates call him—stepped up to take his first MLS penalty, and struck the ball with all of the confidence of a MLS regular.
“Whenever I take penalties, I kind of just try to focus on myself and focus on my breathing,” Adeniran says. “I just pick a spot and hit it there.”
Adeniran left the match in the 80th minute, though not before briefly sharing the field with Gioacchini. That partnership could be a preview of what’s to come. Adeniran’s instant impact provided a sense of relief for CITY, which has recently struggled to find goals from players other than Gioacchini. Now, though, there is some hope that Adenrian could provide some additional punch while the club continues to wait for Klauss to heal.
“It took a phone call,” Carnell joked. “I’m glad he answered.”
Adeniran, for his part, was glad to pick up the phone and heed the call.