Champs of Europe, Chelsea starts tour in Seattle
If it’s possible to ignore a disappointing sixth-place finish in
the Premier League, then Chelsea’s 2011-12 season has to be counted
among the finest in club history.
FA Cup title? Check. A first Champions League crown, and in
dramatic fashion? Check.
Embroiled in drama both on and off the field, the Blues will try
to move forward from the roller coaster of last season when their
preseason American tour begins on Wednesday night with an
exhibition against the Seattle Sounders.
The short offseason has nearly matched the commotion of the
entire 2011-12 season. From striker Didier Drogba leaving to play
in China, to manager Roberto Di Matteo having the interim tag
removed, to John Terry being cleared of racially abusing an
opponent, it’s been a busy couple of months at Stamford Bridge.
Throw in the signings of midfielders Eden Hazard from Lille and
Marko Marin from Werder Bremen and it hasn’t left much time for the
Blues to fully appreciate what they accomplished at the end of last
”The belief was always there. … Last season, besides from not
competing as much as we could have done in the Premier League, it
was a fantastic season,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. ”It
was a great season and hopefully we can continue that into this
Just how rare was what Chelsea accomplished? Thanks to Drogba’s
clinching shootout penalty kick in the Champions League final
against Bayern Munich, Chelsea became the first English club since
Liverpool in 1981 to win a domestic cup title and the championship
of Europe in the same season, without winning the league title.
Manchester United won the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions
League in 1999.
Winning two cups by the end of the season was amazing, Cahill
said. ”So we need to push on from that. It’s nice to be involved
in all the competitions as we (were) and hopefully we can compete
more in the Premier League this season as well.”
The Blues will be without five of their biggest names for the
first stop of a four-game American tour that will feature the first
soccer match at the new Yankee Stadium against Paris Saint-Germain,
a match with the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia and a final
exhibition versus AC Milan in Miami.
Spanish star Fernando Torres, who helped Spain win the European
Championship earlier this month, and Portugal’s Raul Meireles will
join the tour later. As will French midfielder Flourent Malouda and
the English defensive duo of Ashley Cole and Terry.
It was just last Friday that Terry was cleared of racially
abusing an opponent. He was accused by Queens Park Rangers defender
Anton Ferdinand of using racial obscene language during a Premier
League match last October. While Terry was cleared in the courts,
he still may face punishment from the English Football Association
after it concludes its own investigation.
Even Ferdinand could receive punishment after both he and Terry
admitted during the court case to using obscene language during the
Premier League match that led to the trial.
It’s unclear when the five players will join the tour, although
they are expected to play at some point in the American tour.
Meanwhile, striker Daniel Sturridge (Britain), defender Ryan
Bertrand (Britain) and midfielder Juan Mata (Spain) are playing for
their respective countries at the Olympics. That creates an
opportunity for some younger players to impress Di Matteo ahead of
Chelsea’s Premier League opener on Aug. 19 at Wigan.
”Hopefully, I can make my mark and impress (Roberto),” said
19-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran, who already has 22
appearances for the Blues.
The match against Chelsea is the conclusion of a hectic month
for the Sounders. They get a 10-day break after Wednesday’s
exhibition and hope this match against a Premier League club is
less embarrassing than their last.
A year ago, Seattle hosted Manchester United in its lone
international exhibition and it was a competitive match for one
half. But as Seattle subbed in its reserves in the second half, Man
United brought on the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park and a
1-0 halftime game turned into a 7-0 United rout.
Coach Sigi Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer said
afterward that they would reevaluate how to handle major
international exhibitions in the future. Schmid said Tuesday it
helps this time that the Sounders don’t have a game this weekend
and can play their starters more.
”The lasting impact is you don’t want to have that happen
again. That’s the whole thing,” Schmid said.
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