Mon, Aug 07, 2006 - Page 18 News List

MLS All-Stars surprise Chelsea

DIFFERENT TAKES Chelsea Coach Jose Mourinho may have written it off as a training session, but for the Major League Soccer All-Stars, this was their World Cup


MLS All Stars' captain Jaime Moreno, center, holds the winning trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after they beat Chelsea 1-0 in a friendly soccer match at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, on Saturday.


Chelsea has a team of international superstars and the high-priced roster to go along with them.

In soccer, though, fitness trumps fame.

Dwayne De Rosario scored in the 70th minute on Saturday night and backup goalkeeper Joe Cannon made several late saves to preserve the MLS All-Stars' 1-0 victory over Chelsea, the two-time Premier League champion.

"Without legs, it's very difficult to play football. My players were without legs," Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said. "For me this was a training session against other players. And no more than that."

Chelsea has spent big since Roman Abramovich took over four seasons ago, shelling out about US$750 million to build a roster of international stars that now includes Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Hernan Crespo and Michael Essien.

But while the MLS players were in the middle of their season, Chelsea has been training for all of a week. It was the first game in blue for Shevchenko, the European Player of the Year in 2004, and Ballack, Germany's captain. The two, acquired during a two-week span in May, started Saturday and were substituted at halftime.

Most of the Chelsea players were at the World Cup, but they're still getting used to each other and it showed. They had five shots on goal, but two went right into the MLS goalkeeper's hands. Drogba's apparent goal in the 28th minute was disallowed because he was offside.

Their best chances came at the end of the game, with three shots on goal in the last 10 minutes. Essien's shot in the 84th minute went right into Cannon's hands, and Terry banged another off Cannon 3 minutes later. Cannon also saved a shot by Ricardo Carvalho in extra time.

Arjen Robben had yet another chance with a header in the 90th, but it was wide.

"A bit slow in some parts, but that's to be expected," said Terry, Chelsea's captain. "This is our first game. This is what we need, 90 minutes under our belt. ... We're obviously disappointed. When the fitness comes a little bit more, we'll get the results."

This was exactly the result De Rosario wanted.

Though he's won an MLS title and was runner-up for the league's MVP award last year, he missed the World Cup in Germany this summer. De Rosario is Canadian, and Canada didn't qualify.

"For me, this was my World Cup," said De Rosario, the game's MVP. "It's a beautiful feeling to score in a game like this."

De Rosario seemed to be everywhere in the first half, directing the MLS offense. Then, in the 70th minute, he took a pass from Ronnie O'Brien, balanced it on his foot and took a shot that Hilario, Chelsea's backup goalie, had no chance to save.

"It's huge. The whole world is watching this game," De Rosario said. "A lot of people had doubts, probably thought we were going to get spanked. I think we opened a lot of eyes and showed what kind of soccer we have in America."

Chelsea's focus, though, is on England. Specifically, the Premier League, where it will try for a third straight title. The Blues begin league play Aug. 20 against Manchester City.

They also have a Community Shield game next weekend against Liverpool.

"The team with better condition won the game," Mourinho said. "They were faster than us and sharper than us. It's not a big surprise to me."

Chelsea actually put the ball in the net in the 28th minute. Ballack, who looks much different than the player who led Germany with his closely shaved hair, fed Drogba from about midfield and Drogba put the ball past a diving Troy Perkins. The kids carrying the "Goal" flags even went running down the sidelines.

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