Official Chelsea FC Website: "The US tour has been concluded with the World Football Challenge bowl and a fourth win in four, thanks to late goals from Franco Di Santo and Florent Malouda. It means that Carlo Ancelotti retains his 100 per cent status as Chelsea manager after an entertaining encounter at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Texas."
Daily Telegraph: "On the field [Chelsea] largely fielded a second-string team but still eased to victory against the Mexicans of Club America with late goals from Franco Di Santo and Florent Malouda. It meant that they retained a perfect record of four wins from four matches – with just a single goal conceded – on their pre-season tour as they flew back to London last night. This victory and the ones against Inter Milan and AC Milan also meant that Chelsea won the competition, the so-called World Football Challenge."
Dallas Morning News: "Franco DiSanto and Florent Malouda each set up the other for a goal in the span of two minutes in the second half to lead Chelsea to a 2-0 win over Club America on Sunday in the final game of the World Football Challenge. Malouda took a pass from Ashley Cole and chipped it in front of the goal, where DiSanto beat Club America goalkeeper Armando Navarrete to the ball and knocked it into the net in the 76th minute. Two minutes later, DiSanto, a halftime substitute, beat defender Oscar Rojas along the end line and dropped a ball back to Malouda, who fired it past Navarrete from about 12 yards out."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "If Chelsea fans shrugged at the team’s lineup, at least they might now be a bit more familiar with Franco Di Santo. The English Premier League side received a goal and an assist from Di Santo on Sunday evening in a 2-0 victory against Mexico’s Club America at the new Cowboys Stadium. The exhibition match was part of the World Football Challenge promotion, a preseason tournament that technically was won by Chelsea after a 3-0 record in the round-robin format."
A few thoughts
The pre-season tour of the U.S. was a huge success both on and off the field. On it we saw glimpses of what lies ahead in the next 10 months or so. The most exciting thing for me was seeing Ancelotti field two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation in all four games – it made for a refreshing change to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 employed by our last several managers. Drogba and Anelka looked more than comfortable playing together, and Sturridge proved that he’s the real deal. Add in Kalou, whose best position is probably second striker, possibly Shevchenko too (with any luck Pizarro will be loaned / sold / given away for free) and we’re not short of players from which to choose a striking duo. (There are reports in some newspapers that Arsene Wenger wants to take Kalou to the Emirates. I suggest we ignore them.) And let’s not forget that we could yet see the addition of a so called "marquee" signing.
As for midfield, it’s better than ever. The addition of Zhirkov, who can play left midfield or left-back, has strengthened an already strong line-up. Then there’s the forgotten man, Joe Cole, who is expected to return from long-term injury in September. At the back we have four outstanding central defenders (one of whom can play right-back) and two outstanding full-backs, plus a couple of promising younger players. With Terry confirming yesterday (about time too) that he’s staying at the Bridge, there’s much to get excited about.
I’ve warmed to Ancelotti in the last week. My feelings have gone from being somewhat apathetic about his appointment (four different managers in less than two years does this to you) to genuine excitement about the forthcoming season. What I like most about him, aside from his undoubted ability, is his lack of any noticeable arrogance, his sense of humour and his clear desire to give the club a new personality, to make us more loved (good luck with that). In an interview with the Guardian newspaper at the weekend he said:
"I want to use all my experience at Milan to do some fantastic work at Chelsea. I would like to create a new history, a new tradition, for this club. Roman is looking for a much clearer personality for the club, something he can point to and say: ‘This is our identity, this is our Chelsea.’ This is what I was told should be my goal. To find a clear identity for the team. That is not about buying certain players for a lot of money. It is about getting players who want to play the right way."
Let’s just hope Roman gives him the time to do it, because it’s a long-term project and not one that can be completed in a single season. Of course we heard similar things from Scolari, but this time it feels different some how. He’s got me excited about the future of the club, that’s for sure.
Judging from the comments left by a few of this blog’s American readers and reports in American newspapers (Burnley even had a story written about them in the New York Times), the tour has been an even bigger success off the field. Huge sellout crowds at all four games have attested to the growing popularity of soccer in the States. Kick-off times might not have suited UK-based fans – this morning’s was the only game I managed to watch from start to finish – but that’s the price we have to pay if the club is to strengthen its appeal around the world. I’m sure I would have made more of an effort to watch all the games, kick-off times be damned, if the club had made it easier to do so. Having to faff about looking for reliable "illegal" Internet streams in the wee hours of the morning put me off a bit. Also, there was the small matter of sleep.
Talking of this morning’s game, it was another pretty good one. An unusual starting line-up that included Mancienne, Hutchinson, Hilario, Sinclair, Sturridge and Deco played well in the first half; Sturridge missed a sitter early on, both Kalou and Carvalho hit the woodwork from headers, Sinclair showed glimpses of his best, Mancienne played well at right-back, and Deco put in another impressive display at the point of the diamond. Half time, Turnbull came on for Hilario, Shevchenko for Sinclair, and Di Santo for Sturridge. Sheva played quite well, while Di Santo scored the opening goal from a delightful Malouda chipped pass with 15 minutes to go. Two minutes later, Di Santo returned the favour after some great work and cut the ball back for Malouda to sweep home the second. We were the better team throughout. It was our fourth straight win in pre-season. We won the World Football Challenge tournament.
Our next pre-season match is against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 3 p.m. Eight days later we take on Manchester United in the Charity Shield. I can’t wait.
That’s enough early morning rambling from me.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
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