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Match report: MLS All-Stars 3-2 Chelsea

Photo: Earl Gardner

Eddie Johnson’s stoppage time goal propelled the 2012 MLS All-Stars to a 3-2 win over European champions Chelsea FC before a PPL Park record crowd of 19,236 Wednesday night.

Despite scoring first through MLS goal-scoring leader Chris Wondolowski, the All-Stars were forced to gut out a second half comeback after goals from Chelsea captain John Terry and Frank Lampard gave the visitors a second half advantage.

Substitute and eventual All-Star Game MVP Chris Pontius linked up with D.C. United teammate Dwayne De Rosario to level the scores before Johnson’s late game heroics secured the victory for Major League Soccer’s best.

First Half

Clad in a black strip featuring brilliantly shining letters and numerals, All-Star coach Ben Olsen fielded a veteran squad for the first 45 minutes. League-leading goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski joined forces with Thierry Henry, who looked to reprise past battles with the Champions League title holders. Dwayne De Rosario captained the side, sitting atop a diamond that featured Los Angeles Galaxy duo Landon Donovan and David Beckham in the wide berths. Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso rounded out the midfield, adding additional defensive steel to the stout pairing of Jay DeMerit and Aurelien Collin. San Jose was rewarded for their league leading pace with Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow filling out the back four. Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen started in net, completing Olsen’s starting XI.

Between the short preparation time for the All-Stars and Chelsea only recently beginning their preseason, the match began slowly, with both sides searching for chemistry. With the Belgian international Romelu Lukaku running alone up top, Chelsea’s five-man midfield found the pace of the game first, led by new signing Marko Marin.

In the seventh minute, Marin launched his first dangerous assault on Nielsen’s box, turning Beitashour, who did well to recover and blocked the shot. The loose ball fell to Ashley Cole, but the fullback hammered his drive over the bar.

As Chelsea pressed forward, Lukaku found space up the left flank, but his cross was played behind by Collin at full stretch.

With Chelsea building in numbers, the All-Stars looked to spark the counterattack. When Donovan’s knockdown header fell to Henry in the 13th minute, he had a chance to attack the net, but his attempted service into the area was lacking.

It was a brief respite from Chelsea’s ball possession, but the All-Stars’ back line was organized well and held in the face of dangerous probing by Marin, Lampard and Ramires. Fortunately for the hosts, Chelsea could not connect on the final ball, failing to test Nielsen despite their territorial advantage.

In the 21st minute, the predatory Wondolowski made Chelsea pay for their wastefulness, powering the All-Stars into the lead. Donovan began the play, pouncing on a loose ball in midfield to release Henry down the left flank. Driving a low cross into the box, Wondolowski’s pressure kept Terry from clearing cleanly, and the San Jose poacher reacted quickest to the loose ball, sliding it under the helpless Henrique Hilario.

Spurred into action by the goal, the MLS All-Stars began to show a cohesion that was missing from the match’s first quarter. While Chelsea still pressed forward but with renewed belief, the All-Stars slowed play, with Henry dropping into midfield to support De Rosario and Beckham.

An unfortunate injury changed the face of the match in the 27th minute when Aurelien Collin clattered into Chelsea’s Michael Essien. While the Chelsea man would recover quickly, Collin stayed down, receiving attention on the pitch.

With the All-Star’s playing with 10 men, Marin nearly found a way through, but again Beitashour blocked his shot. Lampard was next to try his luck, but his deflected effort flew wide.

On the resulting corner, Collin returned to play, but he appeared well below his best as Terry easily out-muscled him, winning the header and powering home Lampard’s corner to level the score.

Olsen had seen enough, replacing Collin with hometown favorite Carlos Valdes, to thunderous applause from the record crowd.

After Chelsea’s equalizer, the All-Stars were quickly back looking for a goal of their own, with Donovan and De Rosario combining well in the center of the park. Chelsea’s inquests were limited to the dangerous runs of the eager Marin, but it was the home side that would have the final chance of the half.

When Henry and Donovan combined to release Beckham on the right flank in the 42nd minute, Chelsea sagged into the box expecting the cross, leaving Henry open to flash across the 18. Striking the ball first time, the Frenchman watched the ball hooked harmlessly wide of the post, sending the teams into halftime level.

Second Half

Bringing in Dan Kennedy and Chris Pontius at the half, Olsen hoped to maintain the momentum his side carried into the locker room. Early in the second half, however, Kennedy nearly gifted Chelsea the lead when he was too casual in dealing with a Carlos Valdes throw-in. Lukaku blocked Kennedy’s eventual clearance, but a whistle ended the threat, with Chelsea called for a foul in the scramble for the loose ball.

Pontius quickly proved a thorn in Chelsea’s side, with the visitors having to block a shot from the DC attacker following a clever layoff from Wondolowski. Next, Pontius forced Ramires into a foul in Beckham’s range, but the wall did its job on Beckham’s ensuing free kick.

In the 56th minute, DC teammates combined when De Rosario released Pontius straight through the middle. With time and space to shoot, Pontius’ shot was poor, missing the target.

A raft of substitutions changed the complexion of the game, with Ramiro Corrales, Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi entering the match.

Chelsea nearly took the lead moments later when Marin threaded the needle to play Lampard in from the right wing. Kennedy was equal to the test, getting down quickly to his right to make an important save.

This moment of glory was to be short lived, however. In the 59th minute, the All-Star keeper flapped badly at Ramires’ lofted cross, leaving Lampard the simplest of finishes at the back post, as he side-footed Chelsea into the lead.

More changes came for both sides with Eddie Johnson replacing Wondolowski up top, while Chelsea neared a full set of substitutions.

The fresh-legged Chelsea players found the meter of the match more quickly than their MLS counterparts and Florent Malouda nearly provided the visitors with an insurance goal in the 65th minute. When referee Baldomero Toledo waved play on after a heavy challenge from Malouda had leveled Valdes, the Frenchman raced in on net, only to be denied by the last ditch challenge of Steven Beitashour, who continued his stellar play for the All-Stars.

With Chelsea in the ascendancy through the smart play of  Raul Meireles, Malouda, and new signing Eden Hazard, the All-Stars again snagged a goal against the run of play.

After Valdes held off the physical Lukaku to allow Kennedy to race off of his line in time to claim in front of the Belgian attacker, the All-Stars headed the other way. It was the DC connection of De Rosario and Pontius again, and this time they found the equalizer.

In the 73rd minute, De Rosario beat Chelsea’s offside trap off a lofted pass from Beckham. Nearing the endline, De Rosario spotted the run of Pontius to the near post. Cutting the ball back into the box, Pontius smashed his simple finish past substitute Ross Turnbull.

Following the goal, Olsen went to his bench for the final time, bringing in another hometown hero, with Michael Farfan receiving a similar ovation to Valdes’ first half introduction when he came on for Beckham.

With Chelsea tiring, the All-Stars pushed forward in search of a winner, though it seemed the match was destined for penalties after De Rosario and Pontius missed late chances. But in the final moments of the game, there was still drama to unfold.

As the match entered the first minute of stoppage time, Kyle Beckerman found space in the center of the pitch and exchanged the ball quickly with Pontius. The RSL midfielder slid in Johnson, who cut onto his right foot at the top of the box. David Luiz managed to get a touch on the drive, but it was not enough to divert it away from goal. As the ball bounced agonizingly slowly beyond Turnbull, PPL Park erupted in celebration of a hard-fought victory for the top talent MLS has to offer.

MLS All Stars
Jimmy Nielsen (Dan Kennedy ’46); Steven Beitashour, Jay DeMerit, Aurelien Collin (Carlos Valdes ’35), Justin Morrow (Ramiro Corrales ’57); Osvaldo Alonso (Kyle Beckerman ’57), Dwayne De Rosario, David Beckham (Michael Farfan ’74), Landon Donovan (Chris Pontius ’46); Thierry Henry (Graham Zusi ’57), Chris Wondolowski (Eddie Johnson ’60)­

Chelsea FC
Henrique Hilario (Ross Turnbull ’46); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill (Nathaniel Chalobah ’75), John Terry (David Luiz ’46), Ashley Cole(Paulo Ferreira ’46); Michael Essien (John Obi Mikel ’61), Ramires (Eden Hazard ’61), Frank Lampard (Raul Meireles ’61), Yossi Benayoun (Florent Malouda ’46), Marko Marin (Lucas Piazon ’61); Romelu Lukaku (Kevin De Bruyne ’75)

Scoring Summary
21 – MLS: Wondolowski
32 – CHE: Terry (Lampard)
59 – CHE: Lampard (Ramires)
73 – MLS: Pontius (De Rosario)
90+1 – MLS: Johnson (Beckerman)

Discipline Summary
None

Referee
Baldomero Toledo

13 Comments

  1. Way to go boys! Good job by the Union as hosts.

  2. We had a great time last night. The MLS brought an awesome party to town and the SOB reprented PPL and MLS well.

    DOOP!

  3. why’d you leave out the handball non-call in your wrap? i hate chelsea and was stoked for the mls all-stars as much as the next guy but it seems worthy of a mention.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      His arm was close to his body and he had no way to get out of the way given how close Malouda was when he struck the ball.

      The Chelsea players barely protested. Could have been given, but would have been extremely harsh, in my eyes.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      The real answer to this was that the ref (and everyone else) wanted to see PKs but then Eddie Johnson had to go and ruin that idea.

  4. Is it true that Ref Toledo still managed to give Sheannon a card during the game, even though he wasn’t playing……

  5. Strange choice for the “shiny” lettering on the All-Stars jersey; it was VERY difficult to make out on most angles on TV.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      That’s a shame because it looked pretty impressive live.

      • I respectfully disagree. They looked like they were designed for Liberace in Vegas. There were a few names I didn’t know well and I couldn’t make them out without searing my retinas in the brilliant shimmering glare.

        Other than the kits it was a great time. I was in section 125 and a bunch of Union players showed up and sat all around us. Hoppenot, Pfeffer, Martinez, Lopez, Konopka were all there and couldn’t have been nicer. They signed autographs and took pictures with any fans that asked. A great night for soccer. A GREAT night for Philly soccer.

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