Columbus Crew SC

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Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.

Manneh done in Columbus, MLS; signs for Mexico’s Pachuca

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One of the most electrifying (if not frustrating and short-on-end-product) players to ever come through MLS has spurned a future MLS, in favor of a move south of the United States-Mexico border.

[ MORE: Gulati discusses 2026 WC bid, next USMNT coach ]

22-year-old Kekuta Manneh, who was drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2013 at the age of 18 before being traded to Columbus Crew SC in March of this year, has signed with Liga MX side Pachuca on a free transfer, the club announced on Tuesday.

Born in The Gambia and moved to Texas at the age of 15, Manneh became an American citizen during his time in Vancouver (he maintained residency this side of the U.S.-Canada border his entire time with the team in order to do so), and was subsequently called in this year’s January camp without appearing in the post-camp friendlies.

Crew SC’s move to acquire Manneh, which cost them midfielder Tony Tchani and $300,000 in combined allocation money, netter the (perhaps) Austin, Tex.,-bound team four goals and three assists before losing the player without receiving a single dollar in transfer fees. Columbus will, however, retain Manneh’s MLS rights.

It’s been a solid 24 months since we’ve seen anything resembling Manneh’s best, let alone the potential pinned on him early in his career. The blazing speed he possesses in the open field has rarely been harnessed and used to produce the kind of end product that many thought could eventually make him an elite attacker in MLS and set him on his way for a move to Europe.

Toronto FC heading back to MLS Cup Final

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The game in (a bit more than) 100 words: Toronto FC is going to host the MLS Cup for the second-straight season, and this time could become the first team in league history to claim a domestic treble (TFC won the Canadian Championship and the Supporters’ Shield). Victor Vazquez saw his first half penalty saved by Zack Steffen, but the ex-Barca man had the primary assist on Jozy Altidore‘s goal to put the hosts in front after an hour of play. Altidore, by the way, had been limping around on a bum wheel for a good 7-10 minutes for his best Willis Reed impression.

Columbus had three glorious chances, and Ola Kamara couldn’t find an 88th minute loose ball through traffic with nothing but goal in front of him. Justin Meram had the other two. In the first half, he was foiled by Michael Bradley. In the second, he scooped over the bar.

Three moments that mattered

22′ — TFC’s captain catches up to the Crew — Bradley was a little lax in his tracking, and that allowed Columbus a 2v1 chance. Ola Kamara slid the ball across to Justin Meram, but Bradley timed his sliding intervention well and broke up the play.

26′ — Steffen saves TFC PK — Josh Williams hauled down Drew Moor on a corner kick, and Vazquez strode to the spot. His quick run-up attempt was foiled when Steffen flew to his right to parry Vazquez’s attempt. It remained scoreless.

60′ — Giovinco to Jozy to Vazquez to Jozy — Sebastian Giovinco sucked two defenders to him a few yards outside the 18, the backheeled to Altidore for a 1-2 with Vazquez that ended up inside far post’s side netting (Kisses thumb and pointer finger like I made a nice sauce).

87′ — Kamara can’t find equalizer (literally) — Ola Kamara has scored a lot of goals, so it’s going to drive him nuts that this one eluded his vision.

Goals: Altidore (60′)

Man of the Match: Justin Morrow

MLS Conference Finals: Toronto, Seattle on collision course?

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The ties are leaning away from the underdog stories as the MLS Cup Conference Finals reach their second legs.

[ MORE: Premier League Weds. preview ]

Reigning champs Seattle are 90 minutes away from a return to the final after scoring a pair of away goals in Texas, while Toronto needs a win at home to bring out the fine china for a rematch of the 2016 title game at BMO Field.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew — 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
Scoreless after one leg

The good news for Columbus Crew is that a scoring draw is good enough to take them through to a second MLS Cup Final in three seasons under Gregg Berhalter, taking the embarrassment of owner Anthony Precourt’s public desire to relocate an MLS original club to Austin, Texas.

The bad news? That scoring draw has to come at noisy BMO Field against the team with the best record in MLS history, a Toronto FC bunch which will be welcoming Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco back to the fold after suspension.

Columbus has veteran savvy and some wild cards like Pedro Santos, but it’s going to take a lot of defending to handle TFC’s field-switching work and busy full backs (let alone Altidore and Giovinco).

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Seattle leads 2-0

Clint Dempsey is among the most important and accomplished players in American history, and his work since returning to Major League Soccer certainly ticks a lot of boxes: influential, clutch, prolific.

He’s helped the Sounders to an almost insurmountable advantage. At home for the second leg, the Sounders can make Houston’s task near impossible just by scoring a goal.

That said, Wilmer Cabrera is a heck of a coach and has assets that can attack and fire at will. While it may be improbable for Alberth Elis and Erick Torres to spring a massive comeback in Washington, it’s not quite impossible. That’s about as much as we can give the orange-clad men from Texas.

Three things: Being happy with 0-0, and sabotage by Precourt

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On what felt sure to be a seminal night in franchise history, Columbus Crew SC were held by Toronto FC to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday. Leg 2 will be played next Wednesday, Nov. 29.

[ RECAP: TFC hold Crew SC to scoreless draw in leg 1 of East finals ]

We learned (roughly) three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


Who’s happiest with 0-0?

There’s a case to be made that both sides will be quite happy with Tuesday’s result — Crew SC for the fact they conceded no away goals, and TFC facing no deficit whatsoever before their home leg — but it’s quite clear that TFC should be the happier of the two, given 1) they were the best regular-season team in MLS history, this season; and, more importantly, 2) Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore were suspended for leg 1 (they’ll both be back for leg 2) and Crew SC failed to capitalize anywhere meaningful.

TFC lost once at BMO Field all season, while Columbus managed just four victories away from home. Granted, any draw where both sides score would see Crew SC through to MLS Cup, which they would host no matter the opponent (54 points in the regular season; Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo finished on 54 and 50, respectively).


TFC’s tactical adjustment pays off

For all of the regular season, TFC head coach Greg Vanney deployed a back-three, with great success — 69 points, an all-time regular-season record. Nov. 21, three games from lifting (or losing) MLS Cup, is hardly the ideal time to deviate from the only path you’ve known.

MLSsoccer.com

Alas, the absences of Giovinco and Altidore, TFC’s permanent strike partnership in the 3-5-2, changed everything. Without Altidore’s hold-up play bringing the best player to ever grace the league into attacking moves, the 3-5-2 would have quickly devolved into a 5-3-2, followed in short order by a 5-4-1. Columbus need no invitation to hold north of 60 percent of possession in a given game, which is exactly what would have happened. Not just meaningless possession, either, but camping-inside-TFC’s-defensive-third possession; 50-crosses-into-the-box possession; get-the-center-backs-forward-too possession.

Vanney was proactive with his starting lineup, putting another body in midfield by sacrificing a striker for another man in the middle, and it paid off. At right, you’ll see Crew SC’s attempted passes into/from TFC’s defensive third. Woof.


Anthony Precourt sinks to a new low

How low is Anthony Precourt willing to go in order to sabotage Crew SC, the club he owns and efforts to move to Austin, Tex., without so much as a phony attempt at a non-relocation resolution, and alienate the fans that have supported the franchise since MLS’s debut season in 1996? Tuesday night saw Precourt and Co. up the ante as they intentionally restricted entry (two gates for the entire stadium, causing thousands to miss the game’s opening minutes) into MAPFRE Stadium with the presumed intent of a half-empty venue when the television broadcast kicked off and panned left to right.

You pay good money for a ticket so you can see your team play, which ultimately results in filling the pockets of the villain whose no. 1 goal it is to steal your team, and this is how you’re treated on gameday.

This is shameful stuff from all parties involved — Crew SC, under the leadership and direction of Precourt, and MLS, who have allowed this entire saga to be played out in a public forum and enabled Precourt every step of the way.