Chelsea’s pre-season tour of America stepped up a notch with our first game of the trip and it was goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount that earned us a victory against Club America in Las Vegas.
The two half-time substitutes did the damage early and late in the second period, with the Mexicans having equalised shortly after our German striker broke the deadlock with a close-range finish following an incisive move involving Jorginho and Reece James.
The latter was then involved in Club America’s goal as he misplaced a pass back and saw it roll into our own net, though there was reason to celebrate by the final whistle as Mount won it with a spectacular strike.
The starting line-up selected by Thomas Tuchel was dominated by those players who reported back from their summer break earliest having not been involved in the June internationals, with the exception of Conor Gallagher, Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva.
The latter captained the side in the middle of a back three flanked by Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr, while Ben Chilwell started his first match since sustaining a six-month knee injury in late November, and Kenedy lined up as the opposite wing-back.
In midfield, Conor Gallagher and Ross Barkley made up the central duo, while Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi supported Kai Havertz in attack. New signings Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly were not involved.
Taking the temperature
Despite a couple of personnel changes since our last outing eight weeks ago to the day on the Premier League’s concluding weekend, there was a familiar look to the side that started our opening game in the FC Series Clash of Nations 2022.
It was the usual 3-4-3 shape favoured by Tuchel throughout his 18-month tenure in charge, making the most of the vast artificial pitch at the Allegiant Stadium, home to NFL side Las Vegas Raiders and situated at one end of the famous city strip.
The closed roof and temperature regulation offered protection from the 40C heat outside, with a severe thunderstorm also forecast to be sweeping in across the Nevada valley on Saturday evening local time.
It was the noisy supporters of our Mexican opponents providing the carnival atmosphere inside the stadium, though their yellow throng behind one goal were almost silenced early on when Ziyech took aim with a sweet free-kick from just outside the 18-yard box.
The winger got plenty of whip on his low strike but Las Aguilas’ veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa used all his 37 years of experience to read the danger and get down low to push the danger away.
Kenedy goes close
Already three games into their Liga MX campaign, Club America clearly had the advantage in terms of physical fitness and preparedness. Around the 20-minute mark they enjoyed a short period of pressure, with Chilwell forced into some smart one-on-one defending in the full-back position.
From the resulting corner, Kepa punched clear and it was then Kenedy who went closest to grabbing the opener moments later with a bright piece of play down the right.
The Brazilian advanced from the byline and cut in dangerously onto his preferred left foot before hitting a fierce drive inches wide of the far post.
High from Kai
Chances were gradually punctuating the measured pre-season ambience and teenager Mauricio Reyes was next to go close, though his attempt had neither the power nor precision to unduly trouble Kepa between the posts.
Then it was the turn of Havertz, so often a key figure in our endeavours overseas, after industrious play from Gallagher to intercept, drive and play through a neat pass for the German, though his second-touch shot was too high.
Thiago Silva forced the best save of the first half from substitute keeper Oscar Jimenez after flicking on an inswinging free-kick from Ziyech, the Brazilian thwarted by an impressive flying save.
Werner’s instant impact
It was an entirely changed Chelsea line-up for the second half, with Christian Pulisic, Mount and Werner among those coming on for a share of the minutes. Pulisic and Mount tested Jimenez within moments of entering the fray but it was Werner who struck the decisive blow to break the deadlock 10 minutes after the restart.
The move for the goal was probably the best passage of the match as Jorginho clipped a lovely pass out right to James and the wing-back chested it under control before cutting back towards the penalty spot where Werner lay in wait.
Our number 10 was initially denied as his left-footed prod was clawed away but swiftly dispatched the rebound to send the Blues fans inside the stadium into raptures.
Helping hand back
However, that lead didn’t last long as Club America were level within five minutes through a goal that came with more than a helping hand from those in blue.
Some casual play on the edge of our box led to James playing an over-hit pass back to Marcus Bettinelli and the ball skimmed quickly over the turf and into the back of the net.
Buoyed by their fans who formed part of the 47,223 inside the stadium, that may have been a platform for the Mexicans to push on for a winner but it was the Blues who had the next clear-cut chance when Emerson found Pulisic’s run with a clever cross. However, the USA international got his header wrong and it landed behind the goal.
Mason wins it
Emerson then had to be alert with his defensive duties as he intervened in the nick of time to thwart a direct attack before Chelsea’s winner arrived with seven minutes remaining courtesy of Mount.
Collecting a pass from the left from Marcos Alonso, the England international dummied smartly to work some additional space for himself on the edge of the box and then curled a beautiful strike beyond Jimenez’s dive into the far corner.
It was a goal fit to win any game and ensured that rather than red or black, blue was the colour in Vegas.
The Blues now fly across the States to the east coast ahead of our next American pre-season friendly against Charlotte next week.
Chelsea, First Half (3-4-3) Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Thiago Silva (c), Sarr; Kenedy, Barkley, Gallagher, Chilwell; Ziyech, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi
Chelsea, Second Half (3-4-3) Bettinelli; Azpilicueta (c), Ampadu, Emerson; James, Mount, Jorginho, Alonso; Pulisic, Batshuayi, Werner
Scorers Werner 55; Mount 83
Booked Gallagher 35; Werner 90+2
Club America (4-5-1) Ochoa (Jimenez 33); J. Sanchez, Valdez, Caceres, Reyes; Aqunio, Dos Santos, Damm, Fidalgo, Layun; Martin (Valdes 62)
Subs Araujo, Fuentes, Lara, Campos, S. Martinez, Moreno, R. Sanchez, Zendejas, R. Martinez, Rodriguez
Scorer James (OG) 60
Booked Damm 3; Aqunio 27