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MLS Things: Dockal leading Philly, Atlanta draws New England

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We have four nice midweek tilts in Major League Soccer this week, broken up nicely into early 7:30 ET kickoffs and a pair of late ones.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Here’s what we picked up from the first two.

Philadelphia can factor in the East and Borek Dockal is the real deal

Two assists and a clinical penalty are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Earnie Stewart’s Czech import.

The 29-year-old Dockal doesn’t waste much and is pretty wise about when he takes risks on the pitch, something culled from a series of decent Europa League runs with Sparta Prague and Rosenborg.

Only 12 players are averaging more than Dockal’s 2.4 key passes per game. Philly’s now unbeaten in four, having allowed just two goals in those matches, and right in the thick of the playoff race.

Ilsinho posterizes Schweinsteiger’s ankles

Bastian Schweinsteiger has been very, very good in a disappointing early season for the Fire, but he’ll be rueing his appearance in this highlight for some time.

Ilsinho absolutely cooks the World Cup winner with a lightning quick move just inside the box, then hammers a furious effort into the back of the net that leaves Chicago keeper Patrick McLain clawing for spirits.

What did we learn? Let me just keep watching this to find out.

For every great goal, there’s an equal and opposite

Now maybe I’m not the world’s top guy to analyze defending — nor amongst the top 10,000 — but what in the world is Antonio Delamea Milnar doing as Josef Martinez, who is pretty darn good, waits nine years for the world’s slowest cross to reach him in one of the most dangerous places on the pitch?

[ MORE: Arsenal could sell Ramsey ]

Asking for a friend. A late Teal Bunbury penalty did allow New England to pick up a nice 1-1 draw.

Workers to fix automation issues on Atlanta stadium’s roof

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ATLANTA (AP) Workers will begin the final construction phase of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s tricky retractable roof on Tuesday, nine months after the facility opened.

The $1.5 billion stadium will be open in good weather for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United games. Automation problems kept the roof closed for most of the stadium’s first year.

Beginning Tuesday, the roof will remain in a locked open position for 10 days, including June 2, when Atlanta United plays the Philadelphia Union.

The management group of Arthur Blank, who owns the Falcons and Atlanta United, says the final commissioning work to complete the automation will last several weeks.

When work is completed, the roof is expected to close or open in as few as 12 minutes.

“The complexity of the design and our heavy events schedule has made it take longer than we had hoped, but great things take time and we’re happy to see the finish line,” Steve Cannon, CEO of Blank’s management group, said in a statement.

The stadium will be host to the 2019 Super Bowl. The NFL prefers for the roof to be open for the Super Bowl, weather permitting.

The roof has been closed for most major events at the new stadium, including the Southeastern Conference championship game, Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff national championship game.

For the Falcons’ first season in their new home, the roof was open only for the first home regular-season game against Green Bay.

Falcons CEO Rich McKay said on Jan. 24 the plan was to have more games played with the roof “fully operational.”

“Fully operational means you will see us go to much more of an open configuration as we designed at the beginning,” McKay said. “When it’s ready to go, we’ll be open depending on weather.”

Ongoing work on the roof delayed the 2017 opening of the stadium by about a month. Atlanta United used Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium as its temporary home for the inaugural season in 2017 before moving to the new stadium.

The stadium will host the men’s NCAA Final Four in 2020.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

MLS Three Things: RBNY beats Atlanta, is a special club right now

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At this point, Jesse Marsch could take the USMNT job, Tyler Adams could bolt for the Bundesliga, and we’d still have to select the New York Red Bulls to finish with a home playoff game.

[ MORE: Willian’s shot at Conte ]

That’s how well run RBNY is these days, which is to take nothing away from their coach and 19-year-old star, but considering they navigated a solid CONCACAF Champions League run en route to this start… well…. wow.

On a night when Luis Robles’ ironman streak ended, Kaku recorded two assists, and Ezequiel Barco bagged his second goal in three matches, they don’t even meet the requirements of our three things.

Form giants deliver more goals

Marsch’s men have been shutout once this season, and most multiple goals in four-consecutive wins. Three of those four wins have come on the road, at LA, Colorado, and now Atlanta.

RBNY has the best points-per-game in Major League Soccer, has scored the joint-most goals despite playing in the second-fewest games, and is allowing barely more than a goal-a-game.

Bet against ’em. We dare ya.

BWP delivers the goods

RBNY’s 33-year-old English star scored twice and won a penalty that Daniel Royer converted as he continued his assault on all future Red Bulls’ hopes of becoming the club’s leading scorer.

Bradley Wright-Phillips has almost 50 more goals than his nearest competitor, Juan Pablo Angel, and he makes headers look like child’s play.

Victory comes with a price

Kemar Lawrence was lost with a scary-looking face-plant on a clearance, and needed to be stretchered off the pitch. Hopefully it’s not long-term for the Jamaican back.

Report: MLS to add funds for teams to sign star rising stars

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Ezequiel Barco’s transfer to Atlanta United this offseason broke not only the MLS transfer record, but it was an extrordinary amount of money spent on a teenager.

Based on the latest reports, MLS is hoping to see more teams invest in rising stars.

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According to a report from The Athletic, MLS is creating a pool of cash for teams to use to sign talented players under the age of 20. Informally known as the “Youth Transfer Fund,” this could help other teams sign the next Barco, or even an American player playing at a youth club not affiliated with an MLS squad, making that player outside the MLS Homegrown player designation.

Each team can spend up to $3 million between now and 2022, or an average of $750,000 per season.

If true, this is a great sign of growth for the league, understanding that it can profit and grow scouting, developing and selling on talent, whether it’s from here or abroad. If MLS can continue to be a destination for up and coming South American stars, as well as a launching point for American youngsters, it will only help grow the league’s reputation abroad.

Currently, many people still look at MLS as a “retirement league,” with so many European stars ending their careers in the U.S. and Canada. But if more players like Barco, Miguel Almiron and Jesus Medina pick the U.S. over Europe or staying home for a few more years, the U.S. will become a real destination for young players with dreams of European glory.

A few short years in the U.S., and then a career in Europe, before returning back home.

Report: Martino wants to bring Falcao to Atlanta United

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El Tigre in The ATL? At lease one person is trying to make it happen.

According to a report out of Colombia, Atlanta United manager Gerardo has reached out to Radamel Falcao‘s representatives to see if the Monaco and Colombia National Team forward would want to join the Five Stripes this summer. Martino reportedly offered a $4 million salary, though that’s less than the $7 million Falcao currently earns with Monaco.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

On paper, this would be terrific addition for the league. Although he’s 32-years old and struggled with injury this season, Falcao still managed 18 goals in Ligue Un action and another three more goals in five UEFA Champions League appearances, proving that he can still score at a high level. He’s expected to be heading to the World Cup with Russia this summer, hopefully fitter than he was in 2014 when he was still recovering from a torn ACL.

However, there are plenty of roadblocks before this move could actually become reality. First, Atlanta United currently has three Designated Players, so it would have to either sell/trade a DP or trade for enough allocation money to pay down one of the Five Stripe’s players. At the same time, this move could be in the works on the chance that one of Josef Martinez or Miguel Almiron is sold to a European club this summer, with Falcao taking his place.

Watch this space.