IT WAS ONE of those games where it clearly wasn't about the game.
Like going to the Black College Classic — the game is cool, but most are there to see the band.
The excitement and pageantry MLS presented Wednesday night — the pregame festivities, the halftime fireworks, the weeklong buzz — was capped by an equally intense showing from its All-Stars, who capitalized on a trio of rare miscues from Chelsea. The result? A 3-2 win by the All-Stars, their first victory since beating the English Premier League's West Ham United, by the same score. In addition, the All-Stars are 2-0 all-time against the defending European club champions, as it defeated Chelsea, 1-0, result in 2006.
"I can't say enough about a win like this, especially with this being to my first All-Star, it really was a great experience," Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi said. "The crowd was great, and I'll always remember this night. It was special for me to come out here and get a win, especially in front of a great crowd."
Second-half substitute Eddie Johnson scored the game-winner in stoppage time as the All-Stars rallied from a 2-1 deficit to give Chelsea its first loss on its preseason U.S. tour.
The game, which featured world renowned stars playing in the Philadelphia region, was a win-win for a Union franchise and for PPL Park, which hosted a record crowd of 19,236 and showcased MLS' premier event on national television and various radio outlets.
All good things.
The All-Stars struck first when, in the 21st minute, MLS leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski scored on a rebound after a perfectly placed ball from New York's Thierry Henry was broken up by Chelsea captain John Terry. However, Terry misplayed the ball in front of Wondolowski, who finished. Terry would make up for his mistake in the 32nd minute as he redirected a header off a corner. Chelsea scored its second in the 58th when star midfielder Frank Lampard tapped in the go-ahead.
"They put a good collection of boys together tonight," Terry said. "They made it hard for us all night. Give them credit; it was a good fight."
D.C. United forward Chris Pontius, scored the equalizer after he coolly tapped home a ball inside Chelsea's 18-yard-box laid off by fellow D.C. United teammate and All-Star captain Dwayne DeRosario. Enter Johnson in the 60th minute, and, in the 91st, he was the hero.
The Union's two All-Stars, Carlos Valdes and Michael Farfan, received a raucous greeting from the crowd. Valdes got most of the minutes, entering in the 35th after Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin suffered a head injury when he collided with a Chelsea player at midfield and appeared to be knocked out for several minutes.
"It was unfortunate what happened to Aurelien, but his health is the most important and we wanted to make sure he was OK," said MLS All-Star coach and D.C. United boss Ben Olsen. "But you can make a case that Carlos could've started this match. He's as good as any center back in this league."
Farfan, who came in for David Beckham, played 25 solid minutes. It was fittingly appropriate that Farfan, the last man added to the team, was Olsen's final substitution.
"It was exciting. I mean, this is something you dream of as a kid," Farfan said. "To play against the European champions, it's an amazing feeling, especially to do it at home in front of the Sons of Ben and my friends and family. It's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life. To have all these fans cheering was an amazing experience."
It wasn't just Farfan. For many in attendance, the experience with a collection of well-known superstars at a loud, packed arena, made a few more believers that professional soccer in the Delaware Valley isn't going anywhere.
"I think it shows that we have a great atmosphere and great fans here," Farfan added. "If anything having this here really benefited our [Union] team."