Yankee Stadium was the venue for a game that seemed somewhat anti-climactic after the epic Champions League Final and long Premier League season. Manchester City defeated Chelsea 5-3 in the match, but the result was overshadowed by last week’s announcement of Manchester City’s investment in MLS. MCFC’s investment in the US domestic game served to heighten excitement around the ground and interest in this match around the country. The New York Yankees, the most recognizable sports brand in the United States, are part of this investment and in 2015 the team owned by MCFC and the Yankees will begin play in Major League Soccer.
Both Manchester City and Chelsea entered a post-season tour of the United States with interim managers and lots of question marks. Chelsea’s side has lots of genuine quality and attacking flair, but rotation has limited opportunities and consistency for some of the younger emerging stars, while injuries also hurt the club during the recently completed 2012-13 season.
Despite the theory that Manchester City’s attacking players are top shelf, Chelsea’s absent Frank Lampard, a part-time player this season in Rafa Benitez’s “rotation” scored more league goals than any member of MCFC’s squad. Sergio Aguero has had trouble scoring goals away from Manchester in his two-year City career, but the morning announcement that he had extended his contract through 2017 was met with enthusiasm from the City faithful gathered at Yankee Stadium.
The venue itself is hardly suitable for proper soccer, with a narrow and short pitch as well as baseball dirt inhibiting the ability of players to have a proper run up to corner kicks. Still the new stadium across the street from where its venerable predecessor sat is a sight to see, a state-of-the–art facility with the charm of a traditional baseball ground. Many newer venues in the United States do not retain the sentimentality Yankee Stadium does.
The match itself was little more than a high-level kick around. The enthusiastic crowd was treated to eight goals and some scintillating build-up play by Manchester City in particular. But the narrowness of the pitch limited the ability of Chelsea’s superior wide play to impact the match and thus the result itself must be viewed with a bit of skepticism.
Samir Nasri and James Milner stood out as the top performers for Manchester City while Chelsea’s top performers were Ramires and Juan Mata whose 61st minute entry in the match opened the game up for the west Londoners. This match also represented the last match for Paulo Ferreira, the Portuguese utility defender who is retiring. Ferreira in his career won 2 Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Cups/Europa League 4 FA Cups, 3 Premier League winners’ medals and 2 Portuguese League titles.
Manchester City has now defeated Chelsea in five different cities on two different continents during the 2012-13 season. Yet it is Chelsea who appear to have the brighter future, with a young core of stars that showed real flashes of quality during this match as well as the imminent return of the “Special One,” Jose Mourinho. Manchester City’s future is in more serious question as a manager needs to be appointed and a clear-out is expected of many core players this summer. The fine play of James Milner in this game as well as during the 2012-13 season as well as a solid backline are important building blocks, but despite City’s prolific nine goals in two games on US soil, the side’s inability to break down opposition in the final third during competitive matches will need to be seriously addressed this summer.
Chelsea will return to the United States in July for the International Challenge Cup while Manchester City begin a summer of retooling that will be critical if the Citizens are to keep up with Chelsea and Manchester United atop the Premier League.