Sounders FC fall to Chelsea at sold out Qwest

Chelsea FC looked sharp offensively, going two goals ahead in the opening 35 minutes en route to pinning a 2-0 decision on Seattle Sounders FC in a friendly on Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 65,289 fans at Qwest Field.

Chelsea got a 12th-minute goal from Daniel Sturridge to take the lead, then Sturridge set up Frank Lampard in the 35th minute for the second goal.

The crowd was the largest for the expansion club this season and it was the third-largest crowd in Seattle history to watch a soccer match, behind the 66,830 who saw a Real Madrid-D.C. United exhibition at Qwest on Aug. 9, 2006 and 66,722 who witnessed a Manchester United-Celtic friendly on July 22, 2003 at Qwest.

Chelsea FC, the well-known club out of West London, England, showed its dominance early. The Blues have won the English Premier League three times, most recently in 2004-05 and 2005-06, becoming the fifth English team to win the Premier League in back-to-back seasons. Chelsea also won the 2008 FA Cup Final, defeating Everton.

Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller hovered over the ball and protected it from Chelsea's Sturridge in front of the right post in the ninth minute to avoid what could've been a disastrous misplay. Keller bobbled the ball, giving Sturridge time to give Keller a nudge, nearly dislodging the ball from Keller's possession in a dangerous spot.

Keller, a former Premiership 'keeper most recently with Fulham in 2007-08, wasn't as fortunate in the 12th minute as Sturridge put away a 15-yard shot from a tough angle into the right corner, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead. Sturridge made a move to avoid Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall after a pass from Florent Malouda and precisely snuck the shot past Keller inside the far post.

Keller faced more pressure in the 20th minute as Sturridge missed wide right on a shot once he got behind the Seattle defense for a 1-on-1 opportunity.

Freddie Ljungberg forced Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech to make a tip save at the left post on a 25-yard free kick in the 33rd minute.

The Blues went up 2-0 in the 36th minute on a point-blank goal from Lampard after successive passes from Sturridge and Nicolas Anelka. The last one was a pass back from Anelka after Sturridge sent the ball wide right.

Ljungberg took a crack from 16 yards out in the 44th minute, but Cech was in position for a diving foot save.

Chelsea started the second half with just two of its starting 11 players on the field. Seattle made five changes -- one of which was removing Keller in goal with Terry Boss -- to open the final 45 minutes.

The margin could have been worse if not for a couple of sliding clearances from substitute Zach Scott in the 80th and 83rd minutes. His sliding tackle in the 80th came with an open net and a defender on his hip.

The friendly marks the beginning of Chelsea's preseason schedule and four-match tour of the United States. It's the only match of the tour against an MLS squad.

The Blues also face Italy's Inter Milan in Pasadena, Calif. on July 21, AC Milan in Baltimore on July 24 and Mexico's Club America in Arlington, Texas on July 26, all as part of the World Football Challenge. Chelsea begins Premiership action on Aug. 15 at home at Stamford Bridge against Hull City.

The match was Chelsea's fourth friendly in Seattle and second visit to Qwest Field. The Blues topped Scotland's Celtic FC, 4-2, in front of a crowd of 30,504. Chelsea was also beaten by the North American Soccer League's Seattle Sounders 2-0 in the Kingdome in 1977.

Sounders FC meets reigning European champion, FC Barcelona of Spain, in a friendly on Aug. 5 at Qwest Field. First, though, comes a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday, then a home game against the Chicago Fire in league play next Saturday.

Matt Massey is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

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