Charlotte FC, less than five months into competing as a Major League Soccer team, beat English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea FC in a friendly Wednesday night at Bank of America Stadium, taking the penalty kick shootout 5-3 after a 1-1 draw.
- 30’ – CFC – Christian Pulisic
- 90'+2’ – CLT – Daniel Rios
The 2021 UEFA Champions League winners staked a first-half lead through US men’s national team captain Christian Pulisic in the 30th minute, when he cleaned up a blocked shot from striker Michy Batshuayi.
But the 2022 MLS expansion side equalized in the 92nd minute through striker Daniel Rios’ powerful penalty kick. The stoppage-time chance arose after a confident run from Charlotte academy player and US youth international Brian Romero, whose shot was blocked by the hand of Chelsea center back Trevoh Chalobah.
That set the stage for PKs, where Charlotte scored all five of their attempts and a viral social media moment ensued when Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher’s Panenka-style shot was easily saved by goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega.
Holding a 5-3 edge from the penalty spot, Charlotte took the victory before 52,673 fans as Chelsea continue preseason preparations for the 2022-23 EPL campaign.
“We can say that Chelsea maybe are in the second week of preseason, but I can tell you that players of that quality, it is difficult to play against them. It doesn’t matter,” Charlotte interim head coach Christian Lattanzio said postgame. “They couldn’t play the football so fluidly because I think our guys were determined to work hard and to press the whole game. I’m very proud for the way we played. And then after, even getting the win, it was the cherry on the cake.”
Both squads made wholesale changes in the second half (except for Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy), and it was a player in Charlotte’s nascent academy who made the difference.
“[Romero] has this great confidence to do it against anybody,” Lattanzio said of the 16-year-old, whose pro debut awaits. “I don’t think he was fazed that he was playing Chelsea. He was playing like [they were] players and he does that against players.”
Back to MLS
Up next, they’ll return to MLS action Saturday night in Week 22 when visiting Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), who could debut new Italian national team forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
“I think this shows a lot about the character of the boys because we had a difficult game in Miami and then to play at home [before] this unbelievable crowd against one of the best teams in the world,” Lattanzio said. “Only two years ago they won the Champions League, so that tells us the level that we were facing today. It takes a lot of heart, it takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of resilience to go on the pitch and to try to play the way boys did.”
Charlotte FC Starting XI
- First half: Kahlina (GK), Lindsey, Corujo, Sobocinski, Fuchs ©, Ruiz, Bender, Bronico, Gaines, Swiderski, Reyna
- Second half: Marks (GK) (76’ Sisniega), Afful (Santos 82’), Walkes, Makoun, Mora, Jones (Hegardt 83’), McNeill (76’ Alcívar), Józwiak, Shinyashiki, Rios, Vargas (Romero 89’)
Chelsea FC Starting XI
- First half: Mendy (GK), Silva, Alonso, James, Kovacic, Jorginho ©, Emerson, Odoi, Batshuayi, Pulisic, Ziyech
- Second half: Mendy (GK), Chalobah, Sarr, Colwill, Kenedy, Gallagher, Ampadu, Chilwell, Mount, Havertz, Sterling