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Around the Forest: MLS using FIFA18 as a way to reach new soccer fans

Also: Steve Nash soccer pundit? ATLUD sign their second round pick, Barco makes ATLUD debut, a look at top match up’s this season for the Portland Thorns and more!

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Armchair Analyst: More punch in Portland | #MLSIsBack in 9 Days |
I've written this a million times, but just because that's a round number doesn't mean it's a good time to stop. So here's a million-and-one: What Diego Valeri did last year in his MVP season was remarkable. The Argentinean enganche stepped up during the most crucial time of year, put his team on his back, and scored big goal after big goal after big goal after big goal...

The top three (and one bonus) biggest must-see matches from the Thorns FC's 2018 schedule | Portland Timbers
Thorns FC released their 2018 schedule today and it's jam-packed with big match-ups across the summer. Here are the top three (and one bonus) can't miss matches of the year:

Major League Soccer

Steve Nash to become soccer analyst for Turner Sports |
Like countless other great athletes before him, Steve Nash will make the foray into the broadcast booth. But his situation is a little unique, as he won't be commenting on games in the sport he played.

How MLS is using FIFA 18 esports to reach the next generation of soccer fans - Polygon
In the American and Canadian sports worlds, soccer is still on the outside looking in — people tend to think of the “big four” pro sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) before MLS. But soccer is becoming increasingly popular here, especially with young people. It turns out that there’s a ton of crossover between MLS fans and people who play video games, which the league is now capitalizing on by creating its own esports organization.

Stejskal: CONCACAF hopeful new format will boost CCL, increase upsets |
Major League Soccer teams got their first taste of the new look CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday night, when reigning treble-holders Toronto FC cruised to a 2-0 road win at the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of their Round of 16 series.

New LA Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham felt disrespected in San Jose |
David Bingham knew his tenure with the San Jose Earthquakes was done last Aug. 12, when Chris Leitch unveiled his starting XI for a game at Houston, and the veteran goalkeeper's name wasn't on it. Bingham had started 91 straight Major League Soccer games for the Quakes, every single one beginning with the 2015 opener, but there were fundamental changes going on within the team and within the club, and it was clear, he thought, that those changes would not include him.

Atlanta United sign second-round pick Oliver Shannon |
“Since joining our team for preseason, Ollie has proven to be a good fit for our style of play and he’s earned his place on our roster,” Atlanta vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “He’s a player we scouted in-depth for a long time and quickly learned that his physical makeup and player profile would fit in well with our club philosophy.”

Romain Alessandrini has won over Galaxy with his play, now eyes more wins
After the best debut season by a midfielder in Galaxy history, no one would have begrudged Romain Alessandrini if he had taken a trip home to France for some relaxation and celebration this winter.

Barco’s debut goal secures deserved draw against Minnesota | Atlanta United FC
After a game of seemingly countless chances, Atlanta United earned the draw they deserved after Ezequiel Barco’s debut goal for the club equalized the match in the final minutes against Minnesota United.

Luis Robles Selected as New York Red Bulls Captain | New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls have selected goalkeeper Luis Robles as the team’s captain, head coach Jesse Marsch announced today. Robles becomes the first goalkeeper since Tony Meola (1997-98) to be honored as the full-time captain.

United States

US Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne on the future of the youth game - Stars and Stripes FC
Even though the US Soccer presidential election cycle was only really several months long, it felt like at least a year dragged by, pulling all of us by our ankles through a muddy briar patch of every grudge and point of contention that had been brewing in the American soccer world for years. One of the biggest topics under discussion was how to reform the youth system so that more kids from more backgrounds can get into the game and actually develop into quality players to bolster our top leagues and the national team.


When football surpasses language -
The Bosnia and Herzegovina U-16 girls' team understands that. When Jovana Stevanovic made the squad, she had the skill, talent and the passion for the game, just like the rest of her team-mates. The one thing she didn’t have, though, was the ability to hear them; Stevanovic is deaf.

Champions League: Chelsea must be perfect - Azpilicueta |
Cesar Azpilicueta believes Chelsea have to be "perfect" at Camp Nou if Antonio Conte's men are to triumph against Barcelona in the Champions League. Willian's goal had the Premier League title-holders on track to take a 1-0 lead into next month's second leg of the last-16 tie between the old rivals.

Real Madrid want Thibaut Courtois to stall on signing new Chelsea deal to give Spanish giants thinking time
Real Madrid want Thibaut Courtois to stall on signing a new Chelsea contract until April as the goalkeeper prepares to go head-to-head with another of the Spaniards’ targets, David de Gea.