A shouting competition echoed across the field at PPL Park on Wednesday night.
On the south end, their backs to the bank of the Delaware River, fans draped in dark blue bellowed out their hometown: "PHIL-A-DEL-PHIA." Minutes later, in the northeast corner, fans sporting a lighter shade of blue matched their counterparts: "LET'S GO CHEL-SEA."
It was an odd pair of foils. On one end waited the storied Chelsea Football Club, reigning UEFA Champions League victor, in its 107th year overall. And on the other side stood the fans of the Philadelphia Union, owners of a 25-33-24 record in their three years of Major League Soccer.
But on Wednesday night, the melting pot made sense. Chelsea, of the English Premier League, flew across the Atlantic to take on the MLS all-stars in a match that drew more attention than any in the three-year history of PPL Park.
It also drew more fans than any other at the Chester stadium: 19,236 saw the MLS team defeat Chelsea, 3-2, on a goal in the 91st minute by the Seattle Sounders' Eddie Johnson.
Chelsea led by 2-1 when Chris Pontius (D.C. United) tied it in the 73d minute. John Terry (32d minute) and Frank Lampard (58th) gave Chelsea the lead after Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) scored for MLS in the 21st minute.
Fans camped out in the parking lots across from the stadium, some kicking soccer balls, others electing more traditional American games such as bolo toss. And in the grass on the edge of the stadium's entrance, company representatives shouted for the attention of jersey-clad fans, trying desperately to pull the soccer supporters to their tents. The atmosphere felt corporate. It felt like that other brand of football.
Inside, fans watched as the all-stars took on international competition for the eighth consecutive summer. To outsiders, the matchup with Chelsea seemed as daunting as any the league's stars had faced - certainly on par with the Manchester United clubs that blanked the MLS by a combined score of 9-0 the last two years.
Chelsea fans said they traveled from University City and Kentucky and Russia. Scott Sedlacek, 40, drove from Cleveland with his girlfriend for the match. They left home at noon and arrived in the stadium's parking lot at 7:30 p.m. - about 45 minutes before the game began.
Wearing a blue jersey and red scarf, he said he has been a Chelsea fan for much of his life. In November, as a birthday present, he and a friend flew to England to watch Chelsea's match against Liverpool.
He said he would down a sugarless energy drink and drive through the night, splitting the 71/2-hour journey with his girlfriend. Back home, he works as an eye doctor. He scheduled his appointments to begin at noon on Thursday.
"I'm going to give some great exams," he said. "But this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to see Chelsea in America, coming off their [Champions League] wins."
But right now, Chelsea is a club in transition. On June 20, star striker Didier Drogba signed with the Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League. And at forward on Wednesday, coach Roberto Di Matteo chose to start 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound Belgian built to bowl over his competition.
Of course, the Chelsea club still brought plenty of stars. Lampard's name drew claps and whistling when the P.A. announcer introduced him as a starter, and fans punctuated the announcement of Terry, the controversial defender, with a unified jeer.
But neither star elicited the response that Union defender Carlos Valdes did when he entered the game in the 36th minute. Despite the international fame accompanying the Chelsea name, the fans toasted the American side, even as it featured the Colombian Valdes, the Englishman David Beckham (L.A. Galaxy), and the Frenchman Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls).
Inside the stadium, patriotism drenched the game. The fans on the south end drowned out those from Chelsea with drums and classic songs such as Bruce Channel's "Hey, Baby." At halftime, the stadium swayed to "God Bless America" and the Rocky theme. Then, red and white fireworks pounded the black sky, right above the Delaware, right behind the fans chanting for their hometown.