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Steve Ralston to AC St. Louis

Welcome back home, Mr. Ralston!

Ralston, who was the 18th overall pick in the 1996 MLS Draft for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, won the Rookie of the Year honors for the MLS that same year. In his first year, Ralston scored seven goals in 31 league appearances. In total, he has scored 76 goals in 378 MLS matches. Ralston also holds the MLS record for starts (372), assists (135) and minutes played (33,143).

Ralston is also known on the international scene. While being overshadowed by other players on the USMNT, it was his game winning goal against Mexico in 2005 which secured the United States a place in the 2006 World Cup. He was also a member of the 2007 Gold Cup winning team. In 36 matches for the National Team, he has scored four goals.

Ralston, who is a St. Louis native who attended Oakville High School and Forest Park Community College for his first year of college, talked about his return to the Gateway City. “This is a day I always dreamed would happen,” said Ralston, according the the NASL website. “I think anyone who plays professional sports wants to play in their hometown. I am fortunate to get to do just that at this stage of my career. Obviously it is an exciting time for soccer in St. Louis since we now have our own professional team. I am honored to be the first player to become a part of this new franchise.”

AC St. Louis Chairman Jeff Cooper also added “bringing a veteran leader into our team as a building block of our franchise is absolutely crucial for us. The fact that he grew up in St. Louis and is a well known name to sports fans here is just a bonus. It is not everyday you get to bring home a player that has played the most games in the history of the MLS.”

It might not be everyday, but the idea is starting to build that the NASL is looking into grow to something beyond being simply a ‘Second Division’ league. Ralston is the biggest signing to date, and might be for this season. But the fact that AC St. Louis has shown the committment to bring such a well-named figure to the league shows that they are far from shying away from the big picture, which is competing at a high professional level in this country.

In addition to the Ralston signing, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have signed defensive midfielder Takuya Yamada from Japan. Yamada, a defensive player who also has an eye for finding the net, played 296 matches with his hometown J-League club of Tokyo Verdy 1969, where he also served for the captain for three years.

The Rowdies, already signing defenders Joe Donoho and Yendry Diaz, look to be putting together a well-balanced team. We should expect Yamada to be pairing up with New Zealand Jeremy Christie to form their midfield. So, finally, we are starting to see what some of the team might look like once they take the pitch in April.

Still, both signings are a big step forward and shows that the NASL might not be totally satisfied with being classified as a “Second Division” league.

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One Response

  1. Ralston signing for St Louis is huge news for NASL.

    He is a legend at FIU and is arguably the best American midfielder in the history of MLS.

    Well done AC St Louis!

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