Blues lose penalty shootout on historic night for MLS team

Chelsea continued their pre-season preparations with a 5-3 penalty shootout loss to MLS side Charlotte FC, following a 1-1 draw across 90 minutes in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The Blues came into the match off the back of a 2-1 victory against Liga MX giants Club America last time out. With the Premier League season fast approaching, performances and sharpness are starting to become equally important.

But if Chelsea thought they’d get an easy ride at Bank of America Stadium, they were sorely mistaken.

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Of course, the Premier League side dominated possession, but it was Charlotte who created the best of the early chances, with Poland international Karol Swiderski going close a couple of times, while Peruvian winger Yordy Reyna rattled the post with an effort from distance and tested Reece James throughout.

Chelsea rode the storm and eventually took the lead on the half-hour mark, with United States international Christian Pulisic firing home from close range after picking up a fortunate deflection.

Though both sides traded blows, it remained 1-0 at half-time, when Charlotte changed their entire starting XI and only Edouard Mendy returned for Chelsea – Raheem Sterling emerging from the bench for his debut.

But still, Charlotte matched up to their Premier League visitors, creating a number of chances, the standout being a skillful effort from Andre Shinyashiki that forced a save down low from Mendy.

It looked like Charlotte would be unable to find a breakthrough against such illustrious opposition, despite their strong performance. But in the final moments of the match, teenage substitute Brian Romero charged into the box and fired a shot on goal that was blocked with the hand of Trevoh Chalobah. Daniel Rios stepped up and made no mistake to force a penalty shootout.

Rios stepped up first in the shootout and beat Mendy with a Panenka, while CLTFC teammates Christian Makoun, Anton Walkes, Joseph Mora and Kamil Jozwiak all found the net.

Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Raheem Sterling scored for Chelsea, but Conor Gallagher was the unfortunate man to miss.

It was a historic night for Charlotte FC, while Chelsea walked away with more valuable pre-season minutes under their belts.

Charlotte FC: Yordy Reyna

Reyna battled hard against James.

Reyna battled hard against James. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The match tailed off somewhat after half-time (until the final moments) but the opening 45 minutes was often lit up by Yordy Reyna. The 28-year-old put England international Reece James under immense pressure throughout, using his speed to exploit gaps behind the defender and beating him in a number of one-on-ones.

Reyna scored a beautiful goal in the weekend’s defeat to Inter Miami and almost did so again from distance here, with only the post denying him what could have been the goal of his career so far. Especially in terms of opposition.

But Reyna was certainly CLTFC’s biggest threat and can take heart in such an impressive performance against Premier League defenders.

Chelsea: Christian Pulisic

Eyes were always going to be on Pulisic as he played in front of an American crowd, but he certainly stepped up to the occasion during the first half.

It was, of course, Pulisic who opened the scoring on 30 minutes, finishing with composure from close range after a deflected shot crossed his path.

But more than that, Pulisic was the one Chelsea player who never turned down a chance to put the Charlotte defence on the backfoot with speed and direct running. The USMNT star’s movement created all sorts of gaps and he dovetailed beautifully with Michy Batshuayi.

A sharp 45 minutes from a player who has seen his fitness and commitment questioned at times.

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