Championship Sunday focus: Cardiff City

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Story so far… Give Cardiff owner Vincent Tan this: he earned plenty of headlines for a club that will only dance this Premier League tango for one season. From free-spending on players from all over the world to firing Malky Mackay, not to mention tempting fashion magazines with his “jersey tucked into slacks” look, the Bluebirds made noise all season (even if mostly for the wrong reasons).

Oddly enough, Cardiff was safe when Mackay was sacked on Dec. 27. But West Ham, Sunderland and Crystal Palace all surged forward by the end of the season, while the Bluebirds sank. Cardiff went 4W-5D-9L under Mackay, including a 3-2 win over Manchester City in its PL home opener and a 1-0 home win in the South Wales derby but those were half his wins. In the 19 games since, the Bluebirds have gone 3W-4D-12L despite injections of talent from Manchester United, Norway and other locales.

RELATED: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

Who do they play and where can I watch it: Cardiff hosts Chelsea in what’s sure to be an interesting day for the crowd at Cardiff City Stadium. Watch the game at 10am ET on CNBC or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide: Cardiff fell to Chelsea 4-1 at the Emirates in mid-October.

March 29 – at West Bromwich Albion, D 3-3
April 5 – vs. Crystal Palace, L 0-3
April 12 – at Southampton, L 0-1
April 19 – vs. Stoke City, D 1-1
April 27 – at Sunderland, L 0-4
May 3 – at Newcastle United, L 0-3

What’s at stake: Cardiff’s putting the wrong type of championship in “Championship Sunday” relegated to the second-tier of English soccer. Their opponents, Chelsea, can finish second with a win and a Liverpool loss.

When the final whistle blows: Cardiff City will be back in the Championship, lamenting the “what ifs?” of a controversy-ridden season.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)