CHESTER, PA. – The highlights of Eddie Johnson’s MLS resurrection just keep getting better.
The Seattle Sounders FC striker scored a goal off a deflection in the first minute of second-half stoppage time of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, giving MLS All-Stars a dramatic 3-2 win over visiting Chelsea FC at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, and snapping the All-Stars’ two-game losing streak in the annual summer showcase.
Johnson – who last played in an All-Star Game while with Kansas City Wizards in 2007 - before a four-year stint in Europe that included time facing Chelsea while with Fulham FC in the English Premier League (EPL) – ripped a right-footed shot from the top of the box that skipped off the outstretched leg of Chelsea defender David Luiz and past helpless goalkeeper Ross Turnbull for the winner.
The goal punctuated a gutsy effort from the All-Stars, who found themselves in trouble early in the second half after Chelsea’s Frank Lampard put The Blues up 2-1 in the 58th minute. But D.C. United forward Chris Pontius levelled the score in the 71st minute, and an MLS All-Star defence led by Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit, held on just long enough to set the stage for heroics for the second-half substitute Johnson.
The All-Stars topped Chelsea for the second time in as many tries with the win, following a 1-0 upset over a star-studded Chelsea roster in 2006 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. The win also eased at least a bit of tension for MLS, which for the past two years saw the All-Stars crumble against high-powered teams from Manchester United FC.
Pontius, who made his first appearance in the All-Star Game, was named Most Valuable Player.
Lampard and defender John Terry got the goals for Chelsea, while San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski put the All-Stars on the board in the early going in front of a record crowd at PPL Park.
Wondolowski got the spoils on a costly miscue by the Chelsea stalwart Terry in the box in the 21st minute. Thierry Henry drifted a cross in from the left side to Wondolowski, who pounced and slipped a shot past Chelsea goalkeeper Henrique Hilario when Terry stumbled and fell in front of the goal.
One of the game’s most crucial moments followed in the 27th minute when Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin went down in a heap after colliding with Chelsea’s Michael Essien near midfield. Collin, who lay motionless on the field and eventually walked off under his own power, came back in the game in the 31st minute, but ended up on the wrong end of the goal that put Chelsea back in the game.
Just seconds after Collin returned, he was beaten to a header in the All-Stars’ box by Terry, who made up for his early miscue by thumping a header off a Lampard corner kick into the back of the net, pulling Chelsea level.
Collin was replaced in the 35th minute by Philadelphia Union defender Carlos Valdés, who strolled onto the field to a deafening roar from the hometown crowd.
The situation turned somewhat grim for the All-Stars in the second half, when Lampard got on the board with a wide-open shot at the back post. Brazilian midfielder Ramires skirted past Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman and to the byline, where he dished a floating cross over Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to the waiting Lampard, who calmly tucked in a shot to give The Blues their only lead of the night.
The All-Stars, however, struck back with an all-D.C. United connection between Dwayne De Rosario and Pontius in the 73rd minute. De Rosario, the lone MLS holdover from the 2006 game against Chelsea, tracked down the ball in the corner, got a step inside and dished back to a streaking Pontius, who coolly slotted a shot past Turnbull to level the game at 2-2.
Kennedy was solid in net and made two saves in the second half in place of Sporting Kansas City starter Jimmy Nielsen, with no bigger moment than a shot by Lampard tipped just wide in the 58th minute.
Three MLS players logged all 90 minutes: De Rosario, San Jose defender Steven Beitashour and DeMerit, who will return to action with Whitecaps FC on Friday night at Real Salt Lake.
LA Galaxy star David Beckham started and logged 74 minutes before he was subbed off, with London calling for his role in the Olympic opening ceremonies on Friday. Henry logged 57 minutes before he was taken out for Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi, while the omnipresent Osvaldo Alonso came off at the same time for Beckerman. Landon Donovan and Nielsen were pulled at halftime.
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Pontius||D.C. attacker was a threat throughout his time on the field and delivered a well-placed shot for MLS All-Stars' equalizer|
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Osvaldo Alonso||The midfielder was immense in his second match against Chelsea in a week, winning every second ball and going toe-to-toe with some of the best midfielders in the world|
|2||Jay DeMerit||Showed his class by putting in a solid 90 minute shift, ably dealing with Romelu Lukaku's immense physical presence and snuffing out most fires at the back|
|3||Dwayne De Rosario||Didn't score, but was strong throughout the game, getting into dangerous places and assisting on Pontius' equalizer|