Chelsea 2-1 D.C. United
LANDOVER, Md. -- D.C. United came out strong and unintimidated against the champions of English soccer. A monumental upset actually seemed possible.
Then United scored. United 1, Chelsea 0. Loud chants of "D.C." echoed among the 31,473 fans.
"Waking up a giant," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "They picked up a gear, and they came back strong."
United would hold the lead for just four minutes. Not wanting to be embarrassed by an American club, the most expensive team money can buy stopped going through the motions and started living up to its price tag. The game was tied by halftime, and the Blues gave their American counterparts a soccer lesson for most of the second half.
Chelsea beat United 2-1 Thursday night in the first-ever game pitting reigning champions from the Premier League and Major League Soccer. It was only an exhibition -- Chelsea is touring the United States to prepare for the start of its regular season next month -- but the speed and poise of coach's Jose Mourinho $200 million roster was more than enough against the $2.2 million team fielded by United.
"This is what great teams do," United coach Peter Nowak said. "They're just hanging in there, hanging in there, and if you let them have a chance, they're going to score and you're going to have results like that. But my team did everything right. They pressed the ball. We pushed forward. We stuck with those guys. My players surely will remember this night for a long time."
United had nothing to lose, and they played like it. They shoved Chelsea's strikers around in the early minutes. Joshua Gros had two good chances in the 11th minute. Then rookie defender Bobby Boswell, who has scored only once during the MLS season, gave United the unlikely lead with a glancing header of Christian Gomez' corner kick in the 31st minute.
"Tonight I'm not happy with some players. The team in the first half was really bad," Mourinho said.
But, once United took the lead, Chelsea showed the pride of a champion.
"When they scored the goal, you could see immediately the reaction," Mourinho said. "Why? Because they don't want to lose, so that's good."
Striker Joe Cole and midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips, acquired this summer for a $36.8 million transfer fee, set up the tying goal in the 35th. Cole flicked the ball to Wright-Phillips, who unleashed a perfect cross from the right wing directly onto the left foot of Irish national Damien Duff for a 10-yard volley into the net.
At halftime, MLS commissioner Don Garber liked what he saw, especially when noting that the Chicago Fire had been tied 1-1 at halftime with Italian powerhouse AC Milan the night before. Milan won the game 3-1.
"The league is a lot more credible and a lot more capable than a lot of people around the world give us credit for, " Garber said.
But Chelsea controlled the game from then on, even though the Blues made nine halftime substitutions as Mourinho tried to give many players some work. United struggled to get the ball past the midfield line, although halftime substitute Freddy Adu had a couple of nice moves.
The winning goal came in the 56th, when Arjen Robben and Hernan Crespo simply outran United's defenders on a counterattack. Robben poked the ball ahead to Crespo, who easily slid the ball past advancing goalkeeper Troy Perkins and into the back corner of the net.
Until the final minutes, United's only real scoring threat in the second half came when newest Chelsea signing Lassana Diarra nearly shot the ball into his own net in the 73rd minute.
But United roared to life just before the final whistle, winning the ball for several set pieces in the Chelsea half of the field. Clyde Simms was close to tying the game with a close-range header, but defender Robert Huth headed the ball away to end the threat.
"We played well," Olsen said. "I think we definitely earned a little bit of respect."