XI: The Weekend of September 21st

-Both sides left a little disappointed when Manchester City drew 1-1 with Chelsea on Sunday. Everyone, that is, except the neutral viewers. The home side will regret not getting all three points over the title challengers, while Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will be upset that they let a 1-0 lead slip with City down to ten men. Frank Lampard scored the equalizer for City against his former club, after coming on to applause from both sets of supporters. He refused to celebrate it, and even seemed reluctant to discuss it after the game.

-Manchester United appeared to be in the same form that saw them defeat QPR the week before. They led 3-1 at King Power Stadium against Leicester City, thanks in part to a preposterous chip from Angel di Maria. But a questionable penalty cut their lead in half, and the Red Devils proceeded to melt down. Leicester scored three more times, winning 5-3. United supporters will be justifiably upset with Mark Clattenburg, but there are causes for concern with a back line that prominently features Jonny Evans. And that is not news.

-Likewise, Liverpool had an upsetting away trip. After an ineffective performance in a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa, Liverpool went down 2-0 early at West Ham Saturday, and never fully recovered in a 3-1 loss. The Reds now have three losses in their first five games; they didn’t suffer their third loss last year until December.

-A few unfortunate souls did not see United’s collapse at Leicester, because they were watching Tottenham and West Brom. This was unenjoyable, and not just because Spurs lost 1-0. Tottenham managed little on the attack, and for all of their possession, they were less threatening than the away side throughout. If Liverpool and United are both to struggle this year, the fourth Champions League spot is attainable. But Spurs haven’t shown an ability to grab it just yet. Meanwhile, Everton lost 3-2 at home against Crystal Palace. It’s the second win of 2014 for Palace at Goodison Park, and Everton have just 5 points in as many games.

-Arsenal were the one big side to escape the weekend with all three points, thanks to a rapid trio of goals late in the first half against Aston Villa. Alan Pardew entered the weekend with his head on the chopping block, and his Newcastle side fell behind 2-0 against Hull. A late recovery may just have saved his job for now. Southampton continued their solid start by eking out a 1-0 win at 10-man Swansea.

-In Major League Soccer, the Red Bulls made a statement against a less-than-full-strength Seattle side. The Sounders played 120 minutes mid-week in winning the U.S. Open Cup, and conceded within 30 seconds at Red Bull Arena. They appeared to have gained a foothold in the game until a second-half penalty doubled New York’s lead. Bradley Wright-Phillips promptly finished his hat trick, scoring his 24th goal of the season. The game finished 4-1 after goals from Clint Dempsey and Tim Cahill.

-Columbus continued their playoff push by dispatching with New England in front of a sold-out crowd at Crew Stadium. Pipa Higuain scored the game’s only goal on a beautiful free kick, and Steve Clark preserved the win with an equally brilliant save. The Crew now have a two-point lead on fifth place in the East because…

-Philadelphia stumbled at home against Houston, unable to muster much in a scoreless draw. The Union were the other half of Tuesday night’s extra-time final, and perhaps that showed. The draw does nothing for Houston either, as the Dynamo fall further out of playoff contention. The Union will have two cracks against the fifth-place Crew in their final five games. Those match-ups, one home game for each team, may very well decide the playoff race.

-Portland made a statement in the Western Conference playoff race, taking over fifth place with another 3-0 victory over Vancouver. Diego Valeri opened the scoring with a powerful volley, and Fanendo Adi scored two goals in the second half. It was Adi’s fourth two-goal game of the season. The Timbers now have a two-point advantage over their Cascadia rivals, with five games remaining to fight over the last playoff spot.

-With Seattle slipping up, LA had a chance to draw level(ish) atop the Supporters’ Shield race. With a comeback 2-1 victory over FC Dallas, the Galaxy did just that. Former Earthquake Alan Gordon provided the winner with an 84th minute header. LA now has 54 points, the same as Seattle, but they’ve played one more game. The first tiebreaker in MLS is wins, and the Sounders currently have two more than the Galaxy. The two sides will play their final two matches of the year against each other, first in LA, then in front of a large crowd in Seattle.

-Dallas’ loss gives Real Salt Lake some breathing room out West. After a 5-1 demolition of their Rocky Mountain rivals on Friday night, RSL now hold third place by four points. The fourth place finisher will host the play-in game, likely against Portland or Vancouver.

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