London’s Chelsea Football Club clearly wasn’t at the same level of fitness as during its run to the English Premier League title last season. Still, the quick passes and shifty moves it displayed at times were more than enough to upend D.C. United 2-1 last night before 31,473 at FedEx Field.
The Blues sealed the game early in the second half. In the 56th minute, Arjen Robben received the ball at midfield and faked out a United defender. He crisply passed the ball with his right foot in stride to Hernan Crespo, who was open in the center of the field. Crespo sailed a shot from the penalty area over a charging Troy Perkins, United’s substitute goalkeeper, for a 2-1 Chelsea lead.
“We got too excited,” United coach Peter Nowak said. “This is what you get with a team like this. If you let them have a chance, they’re going to score.”
The Blues controlled the tempo for most of the second half, forcing United to stay back on defense and try to quell several Chelsea breakaways. Meanwhile, United failed to find a way past the Blues defense. Although United took six shots in the second half, none was on goal.
United had a chance to tie the game in the 76th minute when Shaun Wright-Phillips tripped Freddy Adu on a run toward Chelsea’s goal. United received the ball at the top-left corner of the penalty area and had Blues substitute keeper Carlo Cudicini off-balance. However, Chelsea kicked the ball out of bounds after the brief threat.
United tried cracking Chelsea’s defense most of the game by lobbing crosses into the goal box. Hoping to find a break, United often saw Blues goalie Petr Cech snag the ball.
In the 31st minute, rookie defender Bobby Boswell streaked through the center of Chelsea’s defense while Christian Gomez sailed a corner kick into the goal box. Boswell headed the ball past Cech for a 1-0 lead.
Boswell, who has scored once in MLS this year, celebrated his goal last night by jumping over a barrier behind the goal and high-fiving fans.
“I’m not very happy with some of the players,” Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho said. “The team in the first half played really bad. … I sat on the bench in the first half, and two minutes later I knew what was going to happen. It didn’t surprise me. [United is] a well organized team. They just want to win the game. … [We] were playing not to lose.”
Immediately, the intensity picked up as the Blues pushed play into United territory. Wright-Phillips, a recent Chelsea acquisition, sent a high pass to Damien Duff, who was standing at the left of the penalty area. Duff twisted his body, lifted his leg and sent the ball flying at an awkward angle past keeper Nick Rimando in the 35th minute.
“It felt good to get on top early,” Boswell said. “It’s unfortunate we gave them one right back. They’re a good team, and they put away their chances.”
In the waning moments of the first half, Chelsea got the ball into the goal area. It bounced in the air before United could send it upfield, and the whistle blew for halftime.
“This is what we’re all about,” Nowak said. “We’re not going to back down, no matter who we play. I’m proud.”