July 28, 2005
LANDOVER, Md. - Former Santa Clara University men's soccer standout Jamil Walker saw action as a reserve Thursday in DC United's 2-1 loss to defending English Premimer League champion Chelsea in front of 31,473 fans at FedExField.
Walker, in his first season for coach Peter Nowak at DC United after playing two seasons and earning a MLS Cup title with the San Jose Earthquakes, entered the match in the 77th minute. Well-known for his speed and quickness, Walker was inserted into the game at his natural forward position to try to get a late equilizer against one of the world's top clubs.
For four precious minutes, D.C. United was actually beating the champions of English soccer. Loud chants of "D.C." echoed among the 31,473 fans.
Then Chelsea woke up. The most expensive team money can buy started to live up to its price tag. The game was tied by halftime, and the Blues gave their American counterparts a soccer lesson for most of the second half. However, it wasn't easy as most observers predicted.
It was the first-ever game pitting reigning champions from the Premier League and Major League Soccer and was only an exhibition - Chelsea is touring the United States to prepare for the start of its regular season next month. But, the speed and poise of coach's Jose Mourinho $200 million roster proved to be too much for the $2.2 million team fielded by United.
United came out strong and unintimidated, showing they weren't afraid to shove Chelsea's strikers around. Rookie defender Bobby Boswell, who has scored only once during the MLS season, gave United the unlikely lead with a glancing header of Christian Gomez' corner kick in the 31st minute.
But striker Joe Cole and midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips, acquired this summer for a $36.8 million transfer fee, set up the tying goal in the 35th. Cole flicked the ball to Wright-Phillips, who unleashed a perfect cross from the right wing directly onto the left foot of Irish national Damien Duff for a 10-yard volley into the net.
At halftime, MLS commissioner Don Garber liked what he saw, especially when noting that the Chicago Fire had been tied 1-1 at halftime with Italian powerhouse AC Milan the night before. Milan won the game 3-1.
"The league is a lot more credible and a lot more capable than a lot of people around the world give us credit for, " Garber said.
But Chelsea controlled the game from then on, even though the Blues made nine halftime substitutions as Mourinho tried to give many players some work. United struggled to get the ball past the midfield line, although halftime substitute Freddy Adu had a couple of nice moves.
The winning goal came in the 56th, when Arjen Robben and Hernan Crespo simply outran United's defenders on a counterattack. Robben poked the ball ahead to Crespo, who easily slid the ball past advancing goalkeeper Troy Perkins and into the back corner of the net.
Until the final minutes, United's only real scoring threat in the second half came when newest Chelsea signing Lassana Diarra nearly shot the ball into his own net in the 73rd minute.
But United roared to life just before the final whistle, winning the ball for several set pieces in the Chelsea half of the field. Clyde Simms was close to tying the game with a close-range header, but defender Robert Huth headed the ball away to end the threat.