Atlanta United: Eales in favor of more MLS expansion

The candidates for MLS expansion pop up with more frequency than beauty supply stores.

St. Louis, recently jilted by the NFL and the Rams, seems to be on the fast-track to receive a team. The Gateway to the West has a long, storied history with soccer, partially because of Anheuser-Busch’s longtime support of the sport. There will reportedly soon be a site search for a stadium as the city could become one of what MLS commissioner Don Garber said will eventually be 28 teams in the league. It wasn’t too long ago that Garber said the league would reach 24 teams by 2020.

Atlanta United’s first season will be 2017. Minnesota United will join either in 2017 or 2018. Los Angeles Football Club, or LAFC, will start in 2018. Miami could come online at any point. Other expansion candidates include Sacramento, San Antonio and Detroit, to name a few.

Not unexpectedly, Atlanta United President Darren Eales is in favor of the league continuing to expand.

“It’s interesting,” Eales said in December. “It shows the level of interest in soccer in America. When I compared it 20 years ago it’s incredible. It’s gone from strength to strength. It had an average attendance more than 20,000 this year. It’s only going one way.

“There are a number of cities desperate to have an MLS team.”

Eales said he doesn’t think that continued expansion risks watering down the quality of the league.

“It’s a massive country,” he said. “We’ve seen this just in the first year. The level of youth talent, it’s only going to get better and better as we get more coaches coaching those players.

“Our academy is an example of taking best practices and spreading it around the state. Soccer is a global game. It’s a game without boundaries. As league goes form strength to strength there’s an ability to cross boundaries.”

Eales points out that as the league has expanded the quality has improved. More teams create more roster spots that provide more opportunities to sign some of the world’s best players. Orlando and NYCFC, who played their first seasons last year, featured international starts Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.

“It’s a more prestigious league to go to,” Eales said.

Charleston camp: Atlanta United will have four prospects at the Charleston Battery’s camp: Goalkeeper Alexander Tambakis will be joined by three youth players and a veteran from Ecuador, according to Charleston’s website. The youth players are forwards Andrew Carleton, a native of Powder Springs and affiliated with Georgia United, and midfielder Christopher Goslin, a resident of Locus Grove and also affiliated with Georgia United. Both are residents of the IMG Academy in Florida. The third player and the Ecuadorian veteran weren’t named.

Why would Atlanta United be interested in sending as many as three youth players to Charleston? There are many reasons, starting with development. The players will be exposed to a professional atmosphere, professional training techniques, professional coaching and be playing against physically mature teammates.

Second, if the players (or any players in the team’s academy) continue to develop to the point that they are first-team worthy, Atlanta United can sign them to a professional contract without subjecting them to the SuperDraft if they have been members of the academy for at least a year. It’s called the Homegrown player rule. Seattle’s Jordan Morris is a recent example of a Homegrown player. Here is a list of some of others that have developed into contributors in MLS.

Soccer for new fans: Offsides. This is one of the most confusing rules for fans in soccer, and also one of the most difficult for the team of officials to call.

The rule was put into place to keep offensive players from hanging around the goal in an attempt to get an easy one-on-one opportunity against the goalie.

The rule has two parts: An attacking player must be in the opponent’s half of the field, and the attacking player must be closer to the goal line than two opponents and the ball when it is played toward them. If those conditions are met, the player is considered offsides.

There are several reasons it can difficult to call. If the player is offsides, but isn’t affecting play, the official may not call the offsides. This can occur if a player to slow to run back from a corner kick, is sitting on the ground nursing an injury, or is on one side of the field when the ball is being played on the other side.

Attacking players will often stay on the shoulder of the last defender, and will try to time a run toward the goal at the same time a pass is hit over or through the defense. If the attacking player times their run correctly when the pass is hit, they will be considered onside even though when they reach the ball it will appear as if they were offside because there will be no one around them.

To try to prevent the timed runs and passes by the offense, defenders will try to play an offsides trap. This tactic requires communication and synchronization by the defenders because they must step up the field as a unit just before the pass is hit. If they time it right, the attacking player will be closer to the goal than two players and the ball when the pass is struck and will therefore be offsides. If one defender isn’t paying attention and doesn’t move at the same time and the same distance as the others, he could keep the attacking player onsides and put the defense in jeopardy.

Good videos: Arsenal is going to play the MLS All-Stars this summer.

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Alex Morgan’s very quick goal.

Watch this first touch.

Top 10 games to watch

Here are the top 10 games in world soccer to watch this week on your TV or mobile device:

Tuesday

2:45 p.m., PSG vs. Chelsea, Fox Soccer 2Go UGA, ESPN Deportes: The Champions League resumes with this massive game between the two of the biggest spenders in all of world sports. PSG is cruising in Ligue 1, while Chelsea is famously floundering in the Premier League.

Wednesday

12:30 p.m., Sporting Gijon vs. Barcelona, beIN Sports USA: Barcelona sits atop Spain’s La Liga, three points ahead of Atletico Madrid. There should be lots of goals in this because Sporting Gijon is one of the worst teams in the league.

2:45 p.m., Roma vs. Real Madrid, Fox Soccer 2Go USA, Fox Sports 1: Another game in the Round of 16 of the Champions League. This should be an easy win for Real Madrid.

Thursday

1 p.m., Fiorentina vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Fox Soccer 2Go USA: The Europa League continues with two of the favorites playing each other. Spurs are coming off a massive win over Manchester City on Sunday that moved them to second in the Premier League.

1 p.m., Borussia Dortmund vs. Porto, Fox Soccer 2Go USA: Few teams develop young talent better in Europe than these two clubs, while also consistently remaining one of the best the teams in their leagues. American Christian Pulisic is up-and-coming player for Dortmund.

Friday

2:45 p.m., Bologna vs. Juventus, beIN Sports USA: Juventus won its 15th consecutive game with a 1-0 victory over league leaders Napoli on Saturday to move atop Serie A.

Saturday

6 p.m.: America vs. Cruz Azul, Univision: One of Mexico’s biggest rivalries will be played in the capital city. America is fourth in the table and Cruz Azul is sixth.

Sunday

9:30 a.m.: Bayern Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund, Fox Soccer 2Go USA: The game of the week in world soccer. Dortmund is second in the Bundesliga, eight points behind Bayern Munich, while Leverkusen is third with 35 points.

10 a.m., Malaga vs. Real Madrid, beIN Sports USA: Real Madrid is third in La Liga, just four points behind Barcelona and must win to keep pace with its rivals.

7:30 p.m., Copa America Centenario Draw, Univision Deportes: The group pairings for the massive tournament that will be played in the U.S. will be unveiled. The event features world heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, as well as rising powers Chile and Colombia, to name a few. The U.S. and Mexico will also play.

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