MATCH REPORT: SEATTLE SOUNDERS 0 CHELSEA 2
A first Chelsea goal for Daniel Sturridge, Frank Lampard on target already, no injuries and a new formation were the main take-home messages from the opening pre-season game.
This sunny midday kick-off in Seattle delivered both a worthy test of fitness and some bright football for the big crowd, especially early on, with the home side asking enough questions of the Chelsea defence to sharpen a few minds and reflexes.
Carlo Ancelotti spoke in the build-up to the game about wanting to make just small changes to an already successful team, and he indicated what one might be with his first selection.
The 4-3-3 mostly played by the previous four coaches was switched to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. With no Africans considered to start given their shortened pre-season, Deco was asked to take on the anchor role with Frank Lampard freed to play at the attacking point.
Ballack and Malouda were the two wider midfielders while the rearguard was the one that completed last season as first choice. Nineteen-year-old Daniel Sturridge was handed a start next to Nicolas Anelka up front.
There was no lack of razzmatazz before kick-off with shiny ticker tape, fire crackers and anthems and when the action began, the Chelsea skipper was straight into the thick of it with two-expertly executed sliding tackles in the first two minutes.
It was Bosingwa who was next to intercept as Sounders started well but then Chelsea began to retain some possession and were almost gifted an opener when former Tottenham man Kasey Keller stood on the ball when trying to control a back pass. Anelka attempted to wrestle possession from the keeper but Keller eventually won.
Eleven minutes into the game the American had no chance of stopping Sturridge's shot. The 19-year-old had already shown some good running into space and was clear when found by Malouda's pass from just inside the Sounders' half. Composing himself, Sturridge curled a shot low just inside the far post.
Keller did block well from Anelka 16 minutes in after Deco had robbed Jaqua and set the striker away.
Sturridge was presented with a similar chance to his goal by Deco this time, as the MLS side's back-line continued to look vulnerable to the most straight forward of balls forward. This time the striker shot wide as he was challenged.
The home side after their few minutes in the sun at the start had shown little in the way of threat since, but when Terry's clearance from the corner flag fell to an opponent, a high ball came in which was scrambled clear. Then Ljungberg surged into the box and just failed to pick out a colleague.
When Chelsea fouled 10 yards out on 32 minutes, the Swede was the only likely taker and forced a stretching tip-over from Cech.
A minute later the Blues netted with a well-crafted pass-and-move second goal, Bosingwa initiating it out on the right, Sturridge pushing forward to Anelka for a square ball for Lampard's close-range finish.
Two minutes before the break Sounders did come close to finding the net, as a Ljungberg shot was deflected by Alex but Cech reacted and just managed to push the ball away.
It was all-change at the break apart from Ballack and Lampard. Shevchenko was now at the top of the midfield with Pizarro and Di Santo up front.
The younger of that front two was denied an early goal by a point blank save from new keeper Sounders Boss.
At the other end Hilario came for but missed his punch on a corner but escaped when Scott headed wide.
Ballack was replaced by Mikel just past the hour mark.
The game was more untidy than the first-half by now and the closest it came to a second-half goal was indicative of that, as Hilario's shaky performance continued when his kick-out was charged by Le Toux. The ball rebounded only just wide.
Then with a 73rd minute chance of their own making, Sounders caught Chelsea open down our right but substitute Nyassi curled a shot just wide of the angle.
Di Santo's frustration continued. He had previously claimed a ball to his feet from Shevchenko should have been played over the top and when he received just such a delivery from Lampard, the Argentine won a race to stab past the keeper but saw the goal-bound ball cleared by chasing Scott.
Then after a strong run and shot that ricocheted towards the net, a tangle of legs by the post put it wide.
Carvalho showed his return to fitness when he disposed Le Toux who was well-placed to score.
At the other end, Mikel drilled a shot from distance over and Shevchenko another too close to the keeper.
Frank Lampard, the only Chelsea player to play the full 90 minutes, became the game's only booking in stoppage time. Playing the whole of the second-half at left-back was 19-year-old Sam Hutchinson, a good news story for a player who has suffered two years frustration with injury.
The game drew a crowd of 65,289 - a Sounders record and the third largest attendance for a game in Seattle. It also beat the 47,329 which was Chelsea's previous best for a match in the US.
First-half (4-1-4-1): Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Deco; Ballack, Malouda; Lampard; Anelka, Sturridge.
Second-half (4-1-4-1): Hilario; Belletti, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Hutchinson; Ballack (Mikel 62); Sinclair, Lampard; Shevchenko; Pizarro, Di Santo.
Scorers Sturridge 11, Lampard 33.
Booked Lampard 90+1
Sounders (4-3-3): Keller (Boss h-t); Riley (Brown 70), Hurtado (Neagle 70), Marshall, Wahl (Scott h-t); Ljungberg (Fucito 73), Alonso, Zakuani (Nyassi 62); Montero (Levesque 62), Vagenas (Sturgis h-t), Jaqua (Le Roux h-t).
Please note that Chelsea squad numbers used in this game are for pre-season only and may change for the season proper.