All-Star: Chelsea impressed with improved MLS side

Chris Pontius and John Obi Mikel

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CHESTER, Pa. – Two games against the MLS All-Stars, two defeats for Chelsea.

And while Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss was certainly an exhibition match for the reigning European champions, they still left PPL Park giving out compliments to their hosts – and several of them think this year’s MLS All-Star team was far, far better than the one they lost to 1-0 six years ago.

“Definitely, yeah,” said midfielder John Obi Mikel (above), one of six Chelsea holdovers from that ’06 game. “They know how to keep the ball a little more. Obviously [David] Beckham, Thierry Henry, those guys being in the team, I think they play some good style. I think they played really well today.”

The MLS side rallied from a goal down on Wednesday with two strikes in the final 17 minutes to beat the English powerhouse, and they did so by controlling possession over wide swaths of the game and passing at an incredible 88 percent success rate against the UEFA Champions League winners.

That performance left Blues captain John Terry – another veteran of the 2006 match – impressed.

“I think the sharpness ... and the movement and the quality of them alone,” he told reporters. “I’ve watched the MLS from back home and it’s improving year after year, and you can see that in the players as well.”

And the pedigree of Wednesday night’s MLS team, which included eight players with European experience, is what made the difference in the final score line.

“I’m quite aware of who I’m playing,” midfielder Frank Lampard said of the MLS lineup, naming a laundry list of players who contributed to the stat sheet. “[Jay] DeMerit’s played in England, [Eddie] Johnson’s played in England, Landon Donovan – fantastic player.

“We [were] aware of the quality of the team, and I think MLS teams ... they work very hard for each other. We [weren’t] expecting anything less than that.”