Chelsea’s pre-season tour of America kicked up a notch with our first game of the trip and it was goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount that earned us a win against Club America in Las Vegas.
Both half-time substitutes did the damage early and late in the second half, with the Mexicans equalizing 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 implicated in the Club America goal as he misplaced a back pass and saw it roll into our own net, although there was cause for celebration at the final whistle as Mount l won with a spectacular strike.
The starting line-up selected by Thomas Tuchel was dominated by the players who returned earliest from their summer break having failed to take part in the June internationals, apart from Conor Gallagher, Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva.
The latter captained the team amid a back three flanked by Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr, while Ben Chilwell started his first game since suffering a six-month knee injury in late November, and Kenedy lined up as the opposite fullback.
In midfield, Conor Gallagher and Ross Barkley formed 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.
To take the temperature
Despite some personnel changes since our last outing eight weeks ago to the day on the Premier League closing weekend, there was a familiar look at the team that started our opener in FC Series Clash of Nations 2022.
It was the usual 3-4-3 form favored by Tuchel throughout his 18-month tenure in charge, making the most of the sprawling artificial field at Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and located at one end of the city’s famous strip.
The closed roof and climate control provided protection from the 40C outside heat, with a severe thunderstorm also expected to sweep through the Nevada Valley on Saturday night local time.
It was the raucous supporters of our Mexican opponents who created the carnival atmosphere inside the stadium, although their yellow crowd behind a goal was almost silenced from the start when Ziyech aimed with a nice free kick just outside the penalty area.
The winger had plenty of whip on his low shot, but veteran Las Aguilas keeper Guillermo Ochoa used all of his 37 years of experience to read the danger and drop low to fend off the danger.
Kenedy is getting closer
Already three games into their Liga MX campaign, Club America clearly had the edge in terms of fitness and preparation. Around the 20th minute they benefited from a short period of pressure, with Chilwell forced into a clever one-on-one defense in the full-back position.
From the resulting corner, Kepa struck clear and it was then Kenedy who went closest to grab the opener moments later with brilliant play down the right.
The Brazilian came forward from the goal line and cut dangerously over his favorite left foot before hitting a fierce drive inches from the far post.
The odds gradually punctuated the measured pre-season mood and teenager Mauricio Reyes was the next to close, although his attempt had neither the power nor the precision to unduly disturb Kepa between the posts.
Then it was the turn of Havertz, so often a key figure in our efforts abroad, after diligent play from Gallagher to intercept, drive and play through a neat pass for the German, even though his shot from second touch was too high.
Thiago Silva forced substitute goalkeeper Oscar Jimenez’s best save of the first half after netting a free-kick from Ziyech, the Brazilian thwarted with an impressive flying save.
Werner’s Instant Impact
Chelsea’s line-up was completely changed for the second half, with Christian Pulisic, Mount and Werner among those who shared the minutes. Pulisic and Mount tested Jimenez moments after entering the fray, but it was Werner who delivered the decisive blow to break the deadlock 10 minutes after the restart.
The move for the goal was probably the best pass of the game as Jorginho cut a fine pass straight to James and the winger overpowered him before rolling back towards the penalty spot where Werner was waiting.
Our number 10 was initially disallowed as his left foot prod was ripped off but quickly sent the rebound to send the Blues fans inside the stadium in delight.
However, that lead didn’t last long as Club America were level within five minutes thanks to a goal that came with more than a helping hand from those in blue.
An occasional play on the edge of our box led to James playing an overly successful pass to Marcus Bettinelli and the ball quickly flew over the turf and into the back of the net.
Buoyed by their fans who were among the 47,223 inside the stadium, it may have been a platform for the Mexicans to push for a winner, but it was the Blues who had the next clear chance when Emerson found Pulisic’s run with a clever cross. However, the USA international made a mistake and landed behind the goal.
Emerson then had to be vigilant with his defensive duties as he stepped in just in time to thwart a direct attack before the Chelsea winner arrived with seven minutes remaining through Mount.
Collecting a pass from Marcos Alonso’s left, the England international cleverly faked to carve out some extra space on the edge of the box, then curled a fine shot past Jimenez’s dive into the far corner.
It was a worthy goal to win any game and ensured that rather than red or black, blue was the color in Vegas.
The Blues are now flying across the United States to the East Coast ahead of our upcoming pre-season USA 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
Reserve Gallagher 35; Werner 90+2
Club America (4-5-1) Ochoa (Jimenez 33); J. Sanchez, Valdez, Caceres, Reyes; Aquinio, Dos Santos, Damm, Fidalgo, Layun; Martin (Valdes 62)
submarines Araujo, Fuentes, Lara, Campos, S. Martinez, Moreno, R. Sanchez, Zendejas, R. Martinez, Rodriguez
Scorer Jack (OG) 60
Reserve Damm 3; Aquinion 27