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Chelsea 2-1 AC Milan: Soccer Fans In Blue Heaven


Last night’s match between Chelsea and AC Milan was another exciting evening in the World Football Challenge tournament. Off the pitch, it was another sold-out crowd, 71,000. And on the pitch it was another extremely exciting night of football. This was nothing close to a friendly.

What has struck me so much about watching these games is the level of intensity that all of the teams have shown as well as the speed of the attacks, especially Chelsea, and the tenacity that teams have displayed to win the tournament. The quality of football on display has been extraordinary.

While I’ve been surprised at how competitive and entertaining the tournament has been, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the transformation that Chelsea has undergone. Many of the players seem reborn. Didier Drogba, especially, who has gained pace and seems more committed than ever to come charging out of the starting blocks when the new season kicks off. When Manchester United play Chelsea in the Community Shield in early August, Fergie’s boys better be ready for a new Chelsea who are playing attacking one-touch football which is attractive to watch.

In the meantime, from someone who was at the game in Baltimore last night, here’s a first-person account of his experience written by Vernon Balanza:

Chelsea’s stop at Baltimore was a continuation of their highly successful tour of the United States. This match was also a complete success for the city of Baltimore, who showed that they are more than worthy of hosting a World Cup or any high profile soccer match in the future.

Chelsea supporters came from all over the US for this match.  I saw a few members of the New York Blues Chelsea supporters club arrive by Amtrak to Baltimore Penn Station.  I also spoke to two Chelsea fans that drove from Indianapolis just for the match.  Another woman drove up her family from Raleigh so her little boy could watch his heroes in blue in person.  The light rail car I was on before the game was full of Blues supporters.  Although I did see a smattering of people sporting AC Milan gear, Baltimore was truly bleeding blue.

There were also a decent number of people who supported other clubs who came out to the game. Many of these fans could not resist the chance to watch two top teams play each other right without having to break the bank and fly overseas.  Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa, AS Roma, Bayern Munich and Boca Juniors were some of the jerseys that could be seen at the game.

The atmosphere was electric at M&T Bank Stadium.  The crowd exploded when Didier Drogba scored that beauty of a rocket in the seventh minute.  They cheered on Seedorf’s goal thirty minutes later.  This crowd shattered the stereotype that the typical American sports fan only cares about the goals.  They cheered hard on every time Ronaldionho made a great move to escape a defender.  Cech was applauded every time he made a great save.  Not only was everyone in the stands was hungry for high quality soccer, but they were also hungry for the merchandise.  The lines to buy merchandise at all four of the stores by the gates were very long.

The only drawback during the game was the PA announcer at M&T Bank Stadium.  He fumbled the player introductions before the start of the game.  He also kept doing announcements while the teams were playing.  I understand that announcements need to be made, but it should have been done when the ball goes out of play.  It was a small blemish to an otherwise great match.

It is worth mentioning that Baltimore did a fantastic job rolling out the red carpet for the all the visiting players.  Every bar and restaurant in the Inner Harbor did their part to welcome all the visiting fans.  There was a great buzz in the streets about this game.  Even the Baltimore light rail got in on the act! The signs for the light rail read “Welcome Soccer fans” in both English and Spanish.

Even though Chelsea won the match 2-1, the game of football, the fans in attendance and the city of Baltimore were all the real winners yesterday.

Thanks to Kyle Gustafson for the above photograph from the Chelsea v AC Milan game. For more pictures, visit his blog.

Chelsea now face Club America in the final of the World Football Challenge on Sunday at 7pm ET in Arlington, Texas. Tickets are still available for the game. The game will also be televised on ESPN2.

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  1. Jose Mourinho

    July 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Shut up MarkB. Shut up RaiderRich2001.

  2. RaiderRich2001

    July 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    In other words, if you disagree with MarkB and his fellow eurosnobs who think they’re the master race, you’re putting out mindless drivel.

  3. MarkB

    July 28, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    You’re not really calling anything anything, you’re just running your yap with the same mindless drivel you always do and then throw some trite worn out label on anybody who disagrees with you.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 10:38 pm

      wow, are you ever projecting

  4. MarkB

    July 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Rich, why don’t you change your name to “all seeing all knowing master of time, space, and dimension” which is what you seem to think you are. You seem to think you are the only one here who knows anything and you continue to blather on attempting to brow beat everyone else. No one gave you the sacred trust of protecting the name of soccer in America. I’d really like to buy you for what you know and sell you for what you think you know and retire.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm

      You just don’t like that I’m calling a spade a spade. Go deal with your prejudices and come back when you’re ready to talk in an unbiased tone about American announcers.

  5. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

    As I stated in the MLS Talk pre WFC posting, my interest in this tournament as an American/USMNT supporter was in CA because they have a lot of Mexican and other CONCACAF players, and they have struggled lately. Also, it is possible MLS or USL teams will play them in CONCACAF club competitions in the near future. I doubt I was alone among American fans in wanting to check out this event because of CA- so this wasn’t simply a European event- had a Mexican team not been invited this tournament the WFC, without question would not have been as successful.

  6. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Andy Gray knew nothing about any player who didn’t play in the Premier League last year during the Euros. But it seems my outrage at his hiring by ESPN wasn’t shared by others.

    Again as Raider Rich mentioned, the majority of American fans and viewers were rooting for Club America. For most of us, what goes in the Mexican Primera Division is far more relevant to our football lives than what Inter or Chelsea with no American players and no players we compete against in CONCACAF does.

    So I guess we should just cater to the Chelsea fan, hire a British announcer and let America and their fans wither on the vine even though they represented a majority of the viewers and a majority of the crowd? That’s great logic.

  7. MarkB

    July 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Once again you miss the point. I’m not saying we don’t need quality announcers. I’m saying that Lalas and Harkes are terrible and no matter how many times you put them on air they are not going to get any better.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 9:06 am

      No, I have the point exactly, you hate American soccer announcers. You’re still a eurosnob, you just happen to live here.

      • Kautzie

        July 28, 2009 at 11:11 am

        Seriously i’m done trying to reason with people like you. It’s your type that makes me wish the sport never gets big over here, because morons like you would screw it up big time. Do I have to spell it out for you? It’s an english league, england’s part of europe therefore it’s a european league with european announcers, european managers and predominately european players and this is a site dedicated to that european league, and if you hate europeans and “eurosnobs” so much then why the hell are you here anyway? They got an MLS site why don’t you piss off over there.

        • The Gaffer

          July 28, 2009 at 11:22 am


          I think we need to come up with a word that’s the equivalent of “eurosnob” but the opposite : )

          I get pretty sick of a lot of people throwing around the eurosnob term. It’s childish. And like I wrote in one of my previous articles about how football is like foreign films, why should soccer fans criticize other soccer fans simply because they prefer foreign (or European) football?

          We’re all soccer fans, so why can’t we just all get along? : )

          The Gaffer

        • RaiderRich2001

          July 28, 2009 at 11:46 am

          Who said I was completely against the way things are done over there. I admire very much the academy system they have over there, and MLS teams should implement that here rather than rely on colleges and pay for play youth teams to do the work for them. I’m also not proposing any changes to the IFAB Laws, the in-game rules work fine. In fact one of the major problems the NASL had was that it *didn’t* conform to the international rules.

          But what I don’t like is people like you saying it must be exactly as your exclusive little clique wants it. Do you want soccer to be a niche sport here, or do you want it to be widely accepted? If you want more people to like soccer and you want soccer to be taken more seriously as a sport in this country, you’re going to have to make some compromises to accommodate a wider audience. And you need to stop treating other Americans as people who have to be schooled in the game. We get the game. We’re just going to do it *our* way.

          In fact the insistence on doing things the European way by some white fans turns off a lot of Mexican-American soccer fans. So not only are you being a eurosnob, you’re being a bit racist as well.

          • Kautzie

            July 28, 2009 at 12:29 pm

            Dude are you winding me up? Racist? Look i’m gonna put this in different terms and hopefully you’ll understand things from my perspective. If the EPL was a band it would be like Radiohead, huge in Europe and popular to an extent in the US but not quite mainstream. Now to be big in the US it would have change it’s sound or image to fit the mainstream or sell out and that’s what the EPL would be doing if it listened to you because having an American announce team do EPL games would be like Radiohead doing a christmas album with the Jonas Brothers. Now I don’t know what kind of music you like but say your favorite band got involved with the Jonas brothers, how would you feel?

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm

            Bad enough that you insult J.P. Dellacamera, who has been the voice of soccer in this country for a long time, now you insult every U.S. band ever by using the Jonas Brothers as your straw band argument.

            And no, you’re analogy is nonsensical for this reason. The rules are the same on both sides of the pond and will always be the same on both sides of the pond. The penalty area will always be 18 yards from the goal line and 44 yards wide, the center circle will always have a 10 yard radius from the center spot and being in between the last defender and the keeper when the ball is played to you will always be offside, unless of course the linesman isn’t paying attention. This will never change on either side of the Atlantic unless the IFAB decides to make changes. It’s the same rules that they play everywhere else. What we’re talking about is presentation, which has nothing to to with the actual game. Soccer is the same whether it’s an American or British announcer calling it. Soccer is the same whether or not the league runs August to June or March to November. Soccer is the same whether or not the league runs a single table or a group stage with playoffs. The action on the field isn’t going to change.

            A more appropriate analogy for soccer over here would be more like Radiohead doing an album with the surviving members of Nirvana. They’re at least in the same genre.

            What you’re doing is denigrating Americans because you don’t like something that is COMPLETELY EXTERNAL to the game on the field.

  8. MarkB

    July 28, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Well Rich, I’m an American and I still think they suck.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 8:36 am

      Well, just like we’ll never get quality soccer players without a top level league, we’ll never get quality American soccer announcers if we keep hiring Brits or using British feeds. Grin and bear it.

      • Kautzie

        July 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

        I agree with part of that but as far british feeds, if ESPN ever got the US rights to the premier league and put out an American broadcast team that just as bad if not worse as having british announcers do MLS games. Your not gonna tell me you’d rather have JP Dellacamera or a big name american sports announcer like Mike Tirico over Martin Tyler or Alan Parry? That’s the same as taking Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey over Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

        • RaiderRich2001

          July 28, 2009 at 9:31 am

          First off, using the UK feed with announcers is just being cheap. If you can afford the rights, you can afford to hire your own announce team as well.

          Second, how do you know if Tirico or Dellacamera did 38 EPL matches a year that they wouldn’t be as good as Martin Tyler or Alan Parry? The more familiar they get with the covering the league, the better they’ll be. You’re just making eurosnobbish assumptions because they’re Americans.

          • The Gaffer

            July 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

            Rich, as soon as the news was revealed by EPL Talk that Fox Soccer Channel had won the TV rights to the Champions League, we posted a poll on our site which asked readers whether they’d like to hear (a) Fox commentators such as Bretos, Sullivan and Miles, (b) the international feed or (c) hire Rae and Smyth from ESPN.

            68% of the respondents voted for the international feed (see ).

            A couple of days later when Fox was asked which commentators they would use, they said the international feed. I’m not saying that we made the decision for them, but I’m sure they took the poll into consideration.

            The majority of soccer fans out there — whether it’s on EPL Talk or Big Soccer — want the international feed.

            The Gaffer

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 10:33 am

            Key word there… Bretos, Sullivan and Miles. Fox has access to better U.S.-based announcers than that, they just don’t use them.

        • RaiderRich2001

          July 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

          Furthermore, I’m not going to stand idly by while you disrespect Dellacamera. He’s a pioneer among soccer broadcasters, he is to televised soccer in America what Ray Scott is to the NFL and Curt Gowdy is to baseball.

          • Kautzie

            July 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

            Are you serious man? I don’t think i’m disrespecting Dellacamera at all by saying Martin Tyler is a few levels better than him, I think most of the people who visit this site would agree with that. There no way Tirico could reach Tyler level in his lifetime let alone in one season, calling Football matches requires a different approach than NFL and NBA games, you can’t be talking constantly for 90 minutes, you gotta let the game breath.

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 10:50 am

            So to sum up your position: In other words, because they’re American announcers, they can’t do soccer. Eurosnob.

  9. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 26, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Fair enough, but European fans based in the US need to realize Club America is the most popular club team in this country and the games they play in needs an American announcer or color commentator. Derek Rae clearly knew little if anything about them in the Atlanta game- while Lalas knows the Mexican League well having been the GM of two MLS teams (SJ +LA) that do a lot of business with the FMF. While he was NY GM he didn’t need to study the FMF.

    If you are involved in the game in the US at any level (US oriented of course- if you simply follow La Liga or the EPL it is different) you have at least a passing knowledge of Mexican Football which is more than most European oriented presenters have.

    Also, Lalas played in Serie A. He follows the league still closely. Some of his more outrageous statements about the EPL have been because he’s been trying to defend Italian football. So he’s very qualified to call any match involving a Serie A club. Does he know or like Chelsea? No, but 3 out of 4 teams he does know well and that’s good enough to call this tournament. Harkes knows only Chelsea well and they have allowed him to call games involving the other teams.

    • MarkB

      July 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm

      So let me get this straight. Anybody who is fairly well versed in the game and think that Lalas and Harkes suck as announcers is a “eurosnob”. Sorry, it’s not a question of nationality. It’s a question of ability or lack thereof.

      • RaiderRich2001

        July 28, 2009 at 5:12 am

        It is a question of nationality. Alan Green and Andy Gray know nothing about Club America and it would have come out in the telecast.

      • RaiderRich2001

        July 28, 2009 at 5:16 am

        And whether you like it or not, the majority of the U.S. TV audience for that game was pulling for CA or were Mexican Primera Division fans.

  10. cholod

    July 26, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Drove from Chicago to see world-class football and got what I paid for. How about Ronaldinho’s bicycle kick attempt? With the exception of a lull in play during the second half the game was intensely played and belied the notion that the players don’t care about the “friendly” aspect of this series.

  11. Bruce Gottesman

    July 26, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Not too impressed with the Chelsea kit. Was there a point to leaving the normal blues in the luggage? Though they’re certainly better than the new Newcastle yellow stripes – does Ashley think they’re going to sell any of those? Maybe Ashley’s idea from the beginning was to destroy Newcastle – it’s hard to figure anything he could have done that would have killed the club faster than he did. Anyway, back to Chelsea – though the rest of the world probably would have liked to have seen Chelsea face one of the Italian teams in the final, the atmosphere is going to be NUTS – should be as much a road game for Chelsea as a trip to Old Trafford or the Emirates…

  12. wllmhll

    July 26, 2009 at 12:51 am

    the world football challenge tournament is by far one of the best friendly tournament, great teams and great matches.

  13. karlo

    July 25, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I have to agree with the positive reviews of the experience. Drove up from Richmond, caught the light rail in. Like Amanda said, leaving was a cinch. Seemed like the trains were running every couple minutes. I can only speak for myself, but the crowd around me during the game was engaged, appreciative of the quality of play, and generally having a great time. Chelsea, especially in the first half, looked very fluid and confident.

  14. United Amanda

    July 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Also – a note about the trains. Yes a large number of fans did ride for free – but at the stop where I was we were all let on for free because some of the ticket machines ( I’m not sure what else to call them ) were broken and there were long lines with only a few people actually holding tickets when the train stopped. We were all told to just get on. It may not have been on purpose but was wonderful nonetheless! There was also no wait after the match got out which was very convenient to disperse the crowd.

  15. DrogBa

    July 25, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Sorry Kartik, but I am American myself, so automatically assuming that I am anti-American because I don’t like Lalas as an announcer doesn’t hold much water.

    They were so many plays in the game where a team was attacking and Lalas continued to drone on about things that had no importance during the game itself.

    I know the goal is to spoonfeed soccer to us Americans, but the MLS-style of coverage during a game between Chelsea-Milan just didn’t cut it.

    • RaiderRich

      July 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

      “Sorry Kartik, but I am American myself”

      Not buying it. Especially since you completely ignored his point about the FMF and how big it is here. Seems like you don’t know much about the soccer landscape in the U.S.

  16. United Amanda

    July 25, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I was there and have blogged about it!

    I was also disappointed in a lot of the fans. I’m a Man United supporter and I knew more Chelski chants than the Chelski fans did – and that’s only because my die hard Chelsea friend taught me one before the match for funsies.

    • Vernon B

      July 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

      I wish a lot of the fans were singing, but to be fair, singing throughout a sporting event isn’t part of American culture like it is in Europe. It really would have been too much to sing when they’re not used to it IMO.

      I do want to point out that there was one Chelsea section behind one of the goals who were singing the entire game.

  17. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 25, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Alexi Lalas watched more Serie A than any English commentator except maybe James Richardson. He knows more about Serie A than ANYONE on English TV again except for perhaps Richardson. He doesn’t follow the EPL, agreed. Also many of us in this country actually watch the Mexican League- it’s almost like a domestic league here, so if we had some Brit commentate on the Club America games it would be a crime.

    If you are just going to bash someone because they are American just say it. “Americans should not be allowed to commentate on football or attend football matches.” Just say it Drogba instead of trying to cloak respectable terms for what you really mean with all kinds of complicated code.

    • Kautzie

      July 25, 2009 at 10:43 pm

      The only reason idiots like Lalas and Harkes still have jobs is because ESPN doesn’t respect football/soccer fans or the sport itself enough to learn about the sport and find out what fans really want, they are still trying to appeal to the xenophobic idiots in this country who won’t watch something unless it’s done by americans and for that reason will never acept the sport anyway. I’d take any british pundit /commentator, even Alan Hansen over any american commentator with the exception of Christopher Sullivan because although he’s not that great at least he takes his job seriously.

      • RaiderRich

        July 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

        You paint Americans with a broad brush, and then have the nerve to label us all as “xenophobic” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

        • Kautzie

          July 28, 2009 at 6:53 am

          Rich i’m from Minnesota so you can’t call me a xenophobe on this one. As far as the British announcers not knowing the Mexican leagues you guys are probably right, I think most, not all of them probably perceive the Mexican League as a feeder league for Europe and the MLS as a cluster#### which probably isn’t to far off, but for those games their has got to be somebody out there knowledgable about the Mexican teams who’s better than Lalas. The guy’s nothing but a con artist living off the wacky hair and goatee he had in the 90’s, I mean I thought he was cool back then too but let’s face it, he was a nondescript defender in Serie A and then he was a nondescript defender in the MLS, he’s doesn’t seem to have an idea how to call a game and has this aura of arrogance and false entitlement like he’s better than Derek Rae who’s one of the best on the planet, and ESPN makes him lead analyst because they think we’re idiots.

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 7:14 am

            And if you’re going claim to be to refer to the people you claim to be fellow countrymen as “xenophobic” without qualifying it, then perhaps you are an idiot and ESPN should treat you as such.

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 7:22 am

            First part of that should read “If you’re going to claim to be from Minnesota and say that your fellow countrymen are “Xenophobic” without qualifying it…”

            Pissed me off so bad I can’t type straight…

            Gaffer, you need to let us edit our posts.

        • RaiderRich2001

          July 28, 2009 at 7:02 am

          You don’t have to be from Europe to be a eurosnob…

          • Kautzie

            July 28, 2009 at 8:33 am

            Rich, you should go back and read your post, unless I misinterpreted it I thought you were implying I was a xenophobe with the “pot calling the kettle black” line. Judging from most of your posts you and I are obviously on opposite ends of the spectrum on alot of things, your an MLS guy, I prefer the European leagues, you like Alexi Lalas, I can’t stand him, but i’m not gonna call you an idiot because I don’t know you and people often get taken out of context on messageboards. Let’s just agree to stop with the namecalling and the hatred because it’s just a messageboard man.

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

            I just get so tired of people who think we have to fall in lockstep conformity with everything that goes on in the UK. Not everything they do in Europe works in the U.S. or will work in the U.S. We need to develop our *own* soccer culture and not always borrow from Europe.

            The U.S. isn’t England and will never be England. Some things will be different here. And I’m sorry, but you can’t have a British soccer announcer doing a game involving Club America because he won’t know the first thing about soccer in Mexico.

  18. Rob Bomb

    July 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Yeah, I was there. The quality of play was excellent. Here’s a video of the Seedorf goal I took:

  19. DrogBa

    July 25, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Don’t want to disagree with this post completely because I wasn’t at the game in Baltimore, but…I attended the game in Pasadena on Tuesday, and if the crowd was anything like that one, it was a depressing experience.

    The American crowd had no idea what to do during the game. Most fans were sitting on their hands, the vuvuzela noise from people who missed the memo that everyone thought it was annoying in South Africa was awful, and when everyone got bored with all of the precision passing and quality from the teams the crowd actually broke out the wave for about five minutes. It really seemed like that was the only fun some of the people had throughout the entire game.

    Now, I’m not meaning to criticize every fan there, because there were obviously some who know what’s going on, but the crowd reminded me of a baseball game more than any football game.

    Also, why why WHY does ESPN have to put Alexi Lalas on the coverage of these games between teams outside of the US? It’s annoying to hear him try to give analysis of teams and players that he doesn’t watch at all other than from what her reads in a game program or some press junket that ESPN hands him.

    • Vernon B

      July 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm

      I was dreading hearing the horns all night to be honest . I was so happy I barely heard them at all.

  20. Greg

    July 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I was skeptical when I first hear of the world football championship, but the teams have played like the games actually matter and I’ve been really impressed with the quality of play. I hope they continue this tournament, hopefully with normal rules, next year and expand it to include more teams so more locations can get some games.

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