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Chapecoense vows to compete, possibly with borrowed players

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CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) Six players, a handful of support staff, and deep sorrow are all that remain of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer club.

They will still try to play again. Because they know that’s what their 19 teammates who died when a charter plane ripped into an Andean mountainside would want them to do.

“In the memory of those who died and to honor their families, we will rebuild this club from scratch so it is even stronger,” club director and local businessman Cecilio Hans said. “We had material assets and human assets. Now we’ve lost nearly all of our human assets.”

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Other clubs in Brazil’s top league are offering to loan players to Chapecoense, with a proposal that the modest club in deep southern Brazil is guaranteed to stay in the top division for the next three years.

“The club will rebuild, I am sure,” said Walter Feldman, secretary general of the Brazilian Football Confederation. “Eight clubs have already called me to offer concrete, material solidarity. We are studying ways to best help.”

Monday’s crash occurred as the team was on its way to the two-game final of the Copa Sudamericana – the No. 2 tournament on the continent. Only three players survived, and all are recovering at a hospital in Colombia: defender H�lio Zampier, commonly known as Neto, defender-midfielder Alan Ruschel and goalkeeper Jakson Follmann, whose right leg had to be amputated on Tuesday.

Chape, as the team is called locally, reached the top of South American soccer without any superstars – no high-profile players from Brazil’s celebrated national team. It was in Brazil’s fourth division just seven years ago, climbing into the first division by 2014. Now it starts the climb again, and this one is even steeper.

[ MORE: Cause of crash no fuel, electrical failure ]

Goalkeeper Marcelo Boeck said he and several players had deals to leave the club for a new one next year. He said they’re reconsidering.

“We know this is a different moment, and we are part of it,” he said. “We hope we can help rebuild in the memory of our team.”

The rebuilding could start Dec. 11, the date scheduled for the final round of league matches in the top Brazilian league. Games have been called off this weekend for a period of mourning.

Chapecoense’s acting President Ivan Tozzo told reporters on Wednesday the club hopes to play that match against Atletico Mineiro using a primarily junior team.

After that match, there is uncertainty over Chapecoense’s future. If the team is awarded the Copa Sudamericana tittle -like its final opponent Atletico Nacional proposed – it would qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores, the Champions League of South America which begins in February.

Chapecoense guaranteed its place in the Brazilian first division for next season, and it is also scheduled to defend its Catarina state title in the regional championship starting in January.

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Data analyst Victor Hugo, one of the key assistants to coach Caio Junior, who died in the crash, said very little remains.

“We have a couple of doctors, two physiotherapists, two locker room staffers, one nurse, one masseur, one goalie coach and me,” he said, speaking at Chapecoense’s Arena Conda.

Hugo said the staff members and six players not selected for the big match in Colombia – some because of injury, others because of the coach’s decision – are trying to cope with the tragedy.

“That disappointment over not being chosen to be there was quickly replaced by that horrible mixture of grief, and with some relief just to be alive,” he said. “That will stick with us forever.”

Argentine midfielder Alejandro Martinuccio was injured and didn’t travel. He spent Tuesday answering concerned calls and comforting friends and family of the Chapecoense players.

“I am not religious, so this is even more difficult,” Martinuccio said. “I am so sorry that this beautiful story is going to end like this.”

Veteran goalkeeper Nivaldo was not selected so he could prepare for his 300th game with the club on Sunday against Atletico Mineiro in the last game of the Brazilian league season.

After the accident, the 42-year old goalkeeper said he would retire immediately, but now he wants to play in the last game to honor his fallen teammates.

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 30: Goalkeepers #1 Danilo (L) and Nivaldo #12 of Chapecoense celbrate during a match between Chapecoense and Cruzeiro for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
Goalkeepers #1 Danilo (L) and Nivaldo #12 of Chapecoense. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)

“My teammates would want us to play that match,” a teary and emotional Nivaldo said. “I just don’t know how I could stand a full stadium with people calling the name of the players that died. We will have to try, I think. But that is going to be hard.”

One of the three surviving players was Jakson Follmann, the second-string goalkeeper behind starter Danilo, who died in the crash. Authorities in Colombia said they had to amputate Follmann’s right leg, and he remains in the hospital.

“I told Follmann I was going to stay here one more year to see him thrive,” Nivaldo said. “He said he was going to carry me on his shoulders after my 300th game. That is not going to happen.”

Associated Press sports writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Chapeco, Brazil, and AP sports writer Stephen Wade reported from Rio de Janeiro

Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MSavarese His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mauricio-savarese

Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeA His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.