The newest team in Major League Soccer made a bigger than expected impact in its expansion year, as St. Louis City SC finished the regular season with the most wins in the Western Conference. The team’s success hinged in part on the contributions of Eduard Löwen, a midfielder with Mennonite roots in Germany.
Like earlier waves of immigrants speaking Plautdietsch (Low German), Löwen came to the Great Plains in search of opportunity. But rather than plowing rural soil, he runs across a manicured downtown pitch.
Löwen led the team in assists, with 14 in 29 regular season appearances, along with six goals, including the first scored by the home team in its new CityPark stadium.
He was a finalist for MLS newcomer of the year alongside Lionel Messi and Giorgos Giakoumakis.
“MLS is growing a lot and is going through a couple of changes,” he said in a late October interview just before his team began its Round One Series playoff matches against Sporting Kansas City. “I really love being here.”
When the Soviet Union fell apart, thousands of people were able to return to their ancestors’ homelands. Germany welcomed thousands of these Russlanddeutscher (Russian Germans), many of whom had Mennonite background.
Löwen’s family was in Siberia, the birthplace of his parents and siblings, and made their way in the early 1990s to Rhaunen in western Germany. The community was attractive because American armed forces had recently moved out of the area, opening up houses for rent.
With the support of Neuwied Mennonite Church just to the north, Rhaunen Mennonite Church was founded in 1993. Löwen was born about three and a half years later and grew up in the congregation.
His talent got the attention of local clubs, and by 2008 he joined FC Kaiserslautern’s youth academy. His professional career began with FC Nürnberg’s second team in 2016, and he reached Germany’s top-level Bundesliga in 2018. Last year, he signed a contract with St. Louis City SC.
“Through many prayers with my wife, the Lord just showed us the way here to the States and St. Louis,” Löwen said. “We are very grateful to be here, and we know that God has put us here only for his glory to share the gospel.”
Löwen said his family’s time in Siberia influenced ambition to succeed and being content with having less.
“It helped me a lot knowing that I had to work very hard if I wanted to achieve my goals of becoming a professional soccer player,” he said. “But now I know that all of that wasn’t even because of my hard work but only by the grace of God.
“My whole perspective on being a professional soccer player has changed radically because before I wanted to play for my own glory, but now I only want to play for God’s glory, and I know there is a way bigger purpose than me fulfilling my childhood dreams.”
Löwen has also represented Germany in international soccer, scoring a goal for Germany at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and scoring goals on both the under-20 and under-21 national teams.
“I’m proud to consider myself a Russlanddeutscher,” he said. “I was born in Germany and grew up there, so obviously I can’t deny my German roots. But I’m proud also of my family’s Russian background. I would say Russlanddeutsche are no typical Russians and no typical Germans.”