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Plane carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense crashes; 71 dead

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A plane carrying 77 passengers, including Brazilian first division team Chapecoense, crashed in a mountainous region of Colombia late on Monday with officials later confirming 71 people had been killed and six survived.

[ MORE: World soccer in mourning ]  

The survivors are Chapecoense players Alan Ruschel, Jackson Ragnar Follmann and Helio Hermito Zampier, plus flight attendant Ximena Suarez, aircraft mechanic Erwin Tumiri, and journalist Rafael Valmorbida.

Three days of national mourning has been declared in Brazil following the tragedy, while all soccer games have been postponed for a week as a mark of respect.

The charter plane, operated by LaMia, was en route from Bolivia to the Colombian city of Medellin with Chapecoense scheduled to play the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Colombian side Atletico Nacional on Wednesday. The game has been postponed with it unlikely to ever go ahead as what what meant to the greatest week in Chapecoense’s history has turned into a tragedy.

[ MORE: “The Leicester City of Brazil” ]

While Atletico Nacional are also said to have asked for the Copa Sudamericana title to be awarded to Chapecoense.

Initially the flight had left Sao Paulo and then stopped in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on its way to Medellin in northern Colombia. Of the seven survivors of the crash, one died after being rescued and three are Chapecoense players with defender Ruschel confirmed to be in hospital, plus goalkeepers Follmann and Marcos Danilo also rescued. However, the club has since confirmed that Danilo had died from his injuries.

Suarez, Tumiri and Valmorbida also survived the crash, while a seventh survivor was later pulled from the wreckage and it has now been confirmed as defender Neto.

Described by their coach Caio Junior as the “Brazilian Leicester City” Chapecoense had only been promoted to Brazil’s top-flight in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s (they were in the fourth-tier in 2009) and were in the midst of one of their best ever seasons.

As well as being in ninth place out of 20 in Brazil’s top-flight, Chapecoense had qualified for the Copa Sudamericana finals (the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League in South America) last week after they defeated Argentina’s San Lorenzo in the semifinal. It was an incredible achievement for the club from the small southern Brazilian city of Chapeco, and their exploits had caught the imagination of fans not only in Brazil but across South America.

In a short statement Chapecoense simply said: “May God be with our athletes, directors, journalists and the other guests that were travelling together.”

Via NBC News, here are some more details on what happened:

Poor weather conditions had been reported at the time of the crash. At one point, rescue operations were suspended due to heavy rain.

The chartered jet operated by LaMia was carrying Chapecoense, a soccer team which plays in Brazil’s top division. It crashed at around 10 p.m. ET on Monday while on its way from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Medellin’s international airport, which is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet.

Alfredo Bocanegra, the head of Colombia’s civil aviation agency, said that communication with Bolivian aviation officials suggested the plane was experiencing electrical problems. However, he added that investigators would have to evaluate reported testimony from a female flight attendant who said the plane had run out of fuel.

It has also been reported by local outlets in Colombia that the plane which crashed had also transported Argentina’s national squad for their match against Brazil earlier this month, and had also previously transported Venezuela’s national team. Other outlets have also reported that the pilot reported an electrical fault on the plane as it made its final approach to Medellin, while others suggest there may have been a fuel shortage.

Medellin’s Mayor Federico Gutierrez described the crash as “a tragedy of huge proportions” while CONMEBOL, soccer’s governing body in South America, has suspended all activities and their president Alejandro Dominguez is making his way to the crash site.

Players, clubs and fans across the world have showed their solidarity, sending messages of support to Chapecoense in their time of need.

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

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While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.