After the glitz and glamour of a atypical Anglo–Norman battle under the bright lights of the Yankee stadium in New York City, the Chelsea team turn their attention to the next leg of their transatlantic preseason tour. The show of expensive wingers, decorated managers and return of our European Championship contingent promised a fast paced, explosive 90 minutes of football. Newly touted European contenders and entrepreneurs Paris Saint Germain offered a good test of fitness for the Chelsea team, before heading south for a meeting with the MLS All Stars.
The MLS All Star team is annually voted for and decided by the US soccer community through an online poll, choosing their best performers over the past campaign. Whilst names such as Henry, Donavon and Beckham have been heavily featured in Chelsea’s past seasons, the MAS roster boasts an array of talent from across the country. Current D.C United boss Ben Olsen has been entrusted with the job of sending out his troops in what he describes will be a ‘competitive’ game against the Blues. Veteran midfielder Dwayne de Rosario, also of D.C will captain the chosen XI, the fan’s favourite already notching 5 goals and 10 assists this campaign. Discounting the threat of Henry’s pace, Beckham’s dead balls and Donavon’s link up play, a man the Chelsea back line must be aware of is San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. With 17 goals in 20 games this season, Wondolowski has propelled San Jose to the top of the league. If Olsen, as it would appear, intends on playing the match and not the media saturated occasion and opportunity of an East vs. West clash, Wondolowski stands a good chance at starting the game as a lone forward over Thierry Henry.
Chelsea had many positives to draw from a good contest against PSG, a 1–1 draw probably a fair result given the balance of play. Hazard looked likely, engineering and cutting inside at every possible chance, Kakuta looked rather industrious tracking back in front of Sam Hutchinson, a point that has obviously been made by RDM to our wide players, protecting our wing backs; Hutchinson himself looked astute throughout. With our attention turning to the game at PPL Park in the wee hours of Thursday, we hope many questions will be answered by RDM and the Chelsea players.
With Jose Bosingwa’s inevitable departure from Stamford Bridge impending, just what chance does Sam Hutchinson have to stake a claim at the right back spot? I for one expect Ivanovic to start the season at right back, with JT and Cahill forming a central partnership and Ash out on the left. But as is the life of a Chelsea supporter, with the new season I envisage numerous injuries and suspensions resulting in metamorphosis of the back line. Paulo has been our go to guy over the years filling in anywhere needed, but with the emergence of Hutchinson, who seems a very composed and natural defender, albeit he remains injury free, questions must be asked whether he is a player that will remain on the periphery of the first team, after all, we all know what is currently being pitched by directors up and down Sunset Boulevard, the Ryan Bertrand story.
Secondly, an exciting conundrum; just how and what does RDM expect to do with the multitude of creative wingers we seem to have adopted?! Hazard, Marin, De Bruyne, Kakuta, Sturridge and Mata not to mention the possibilities of Oscar and Hulk all seem to share the similar qualities and positions on paper. The clash against MAS will be a great chance for the new boys Hazard, De Bruyne and Marin to flex their muscles and give the Chelsea guru and insight into how he imagines we will pitch up at Villa Park on the 12th of August.
Finally, the match against the MAS will shed light on the capabilities of our centre forwards. If RDM sticks to his word and the returning El Niño doesn’t feature, I believe that little Lucas Piazon deserves to start the game ahead of Lukaku, who has looked good in front of goal but rather lackadaisical (much like the great Didier himself), Piazon has all the makings of a great centre forward and looked really enthusiastic against PSG. If he stays true and avoids the Franco di Stanto path, Piazon could have a real future at the club after enjoying a magnificent season in the youth team.
The match against the MLS all stars represents more of a competitive game then the previous matches, with the MAS keen to show the western countries a good show after being beaten by Manchester United and Everton in the past few seasons. Boil the kettle, enjoy a siesta, set your alarms, it’s going to be a late one!