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Latest in Crew relocation saga: Club will allow season ticket refunds

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This week’s stories about the Columbus Crew under Gregg Berhalter should be focused on their Thursday playoff date with Atlanta United, one which has the potential to be an all-timer in terms of desperation entertainment from two hungry, fun teams.

But instead of talking about whether Federico Higuain will ride off into the sunset in a manner befitting of a Crew legend, we’re talking about season ticket refunds and relocation and the sloppiest way to go about ruining a positive time in the MLS calendar.

[ MORE: Filling out an MLS Best XI is harder than ever ]

Crew owner Anthony Precourt is trying to engineer a relocation of original MLS club Columbus Crew to Austin courtesy of a “Hey, maybe I’ll stay” guise which is about as thinly veiled as the garlic Paulie chops for his prison sauce in “Goodfellas.”

Precourt was initially not going to allow refunds to season ticket holders ahead of the 2018 season, as the club will still be in Ohio (and could, we must say, stick around beyond that especially as Austin isn’t exactly begging for another town’s team). Now he is, for about a week, from ColumbusCrewSC.com:

“I remain hopeful that our passionate supporters will cheer for the Club under these difficult circumstances, but I recognize that some of you would like the opportunity to secure a refund for 2018 MLS regular-season season packages purchased prior to PSV’s recent announcement. Effective today at 2:00 p.m. ET and up until 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday November 3, we will provide 2018 Season Ticket Members with a window to secure a full refund for 2018 Season Ticket Memberships should that be your preference. 2018 Season Ticket Members who previously purchased season tickets for the 2018 season and wish to secure a refund shall be eligible for a full refund prior to the November 3 deadline by following the link in the email that was sent today to Season Ticket Members. Playoff tickets committed for the 2017 MLS Playoffs will not be eligible for a refund. Our players and coaching staff leave everything on the field, match after match, and they are performing at an incredible level as we enter the playoffs. Although I know you are upset with the recent announcement, I hope you will still consider honoring our players with your support during this playoff run and beyond.”

There’s so much “damned if you, damned if you don’t” here. Imagine: you love your club and don’t want it to leave, but also don’t want to give Precourt any more money than necessary. And Precourt can then say, “Well, this town didn’t really love the club, anyway.”

(Trust me, as a Buffalonian who had to live with a decade-plus of relocation rumors for the Buffalo Bills, I know a bit about a community being held hostage. Even when it turns out well, with the Pegulas pledging to keep the Bills and Sabres here forever, you never forget the angst of your childhood teams having an uncertain future because a league or owner could make more money).

This comes about a week after the Crew owner posted what is perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious pair of Tweets in American soccer history (It’s still baffling he hasn’t deleted the second tweet). Read on, and then imagine what it takes to think, “Hmmm, us. Doesn’t seem right given I’m going to rip their team from them. I better correct that to say, ‘You all.'”

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Puel insists Chelsea hasn’t inquired about goalkeeper Schmeichel

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Chelsea could very be in the market for a goalkeeper over the summer, but Leicester City’s manager insists that their number one isn’t being targeted by the Blues; or at least not yet.

[ MORE: Klopp discusses Christian Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending ]

With the Blues likely set to lose Belgium international Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, new manager Maurizio Sarri would have to look elsewhere to solidify the team’s goalkeeping situation.

One player that has drawn significant interest after a strong World Cup performance for Denmark is Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, who played a big role in the Foxes’ 2015/16 Premier League title.

Although Schmeichel would be a viable replacement for Courtois at Stamford Bridge, Leicester boss Claude Puel says Chelsea hasn’t expressed its interest to this point.

“No, there is no problem with this,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports. “There is a lot of speculation at this moment, it is normal.

“I think he [Ward] can bring more competition to the squad and more possibilities. It is a good thing to have competition between players in the squad to develop desire.

“It gives good focus and concentration.”

The Foxes recently brought in young Liverpool keeper Danny Ward, which raised further questions about the future of Schmeichel at Leicester.

FC Dallas, Houston play to 1-1 after scoring early goals

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HOUSTON (AP) FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo each scored early goals in a 1-1 draw Saturday night.

Matt Hedges put Dallas (11-3-6) ahead 47 seconds into the game with his first goal of the season, converting a header off a cross from Santiago Mosquera.

Houston (7-6-6) tied it in the eight on Mauro Manotas’ 10th goal of the season. He scored on a header off Romell Quioto’s cross.

Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis stuffed Roland Lamah‘s penalty kick at the 61st minute to keep the score knotted. Ten minutes later, Lamah missed an open look and sent a short shot high that ricocheted off the top of the post.

In stoppage time, Houston’s Alberth Elis missed high and wide to the right just outside the box.

Houston is unbeaten in four games.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals and two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.