Chelsea defender Gary Cahill spent five days vacationing in South Beach a few years ago and is looking forward to coming back next weekend with his teammates for the July 28 friendly against AC Milan at Sun Life Stadium.
Among the items on his to-do list: catch a Marlins game.
“I’m hoping the baseball team is in town because I’ve never seen a game live and I think that would be fantastic,” Cahill said by phone from England last week. “I find it quite surprising to hear that the support for football is so great in Miami considering how big baseball, basketball and American football are in the U.S. The lads are very excited to play in Miami. It’s a chance for us to connect with our fans who never get to see us in person.”
Ticket sales reached 50,000 last week, and ticketholders are invited to open training sessions with both teams at 6 p.m. Friday at the stadium (doors open at 5 p.m.).
Chelsea is coming off one of its most memorable seasons. The club won its first Champions League title on a dramatic penalty-kick shootout against Bayern Munich, and also won the FA Cup. There has been plenty of news in the short offseason. Forward Didier Drogba, who clinched the Champions League title with his penalty kick, left to play in China. John Terry was cleared of racially taunting an opponent. And Roberto Di Matteo was promoted from interim to full-time manager.
The Blues are playing four matches on their U.S. tour. They beat the Seattle Sounders 4-2 on Wednesday in front of a crowd of 53,000. They are playing against Paris Saint-Germain at the new Yankee Stadium on Sunday, against the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia on Wednesday, then head to Miami to face Italian giant AC Milan.
Five of Chelsea’s A-List players did not participate in the Seattle match ( Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Flourent Malouda) but all are scheduled to join the tour on the East Coast. Other Chelsea players on the travel roster include Cahill, captain Frank Lampard, and goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Two new signings, 23-year-old German winger Marko Marin and 21-year-old Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, scored in their debuts against the Sounders.
Fans can expect to see the Blues in preseason form.
“The lads are not match-fit yet,” Cahill said. “I’m sure there will be changes at halftime because guys won’t be ready to go the full time. These games are part of a progression to help us reach peak fitness by mid-August. Last year, we played in the U.S. against the Houston Dynamos and it was great. It’s good for us to get competition and also give publicity to our club.”
Cahill is particularly eager to get playing time after missing the Euro 2012 tournament with a fractured jaw. The English national team defender collided with goalkeeper Joe Hart during a friendly against Belgium and was forced the miss the European championship. His jaw was wired shut, and his diet was limited to pureed foods.
“It was definitely the low point of my career,” he said. “We were on such a high going into that tournament, but I was gutted from a personal, selfish point of view because didn’t get to play. It happened the last game before we got on the plane to leave. The team did really well, but Spain at the moment is a step above everyone else. They are picking up all the trophies and everyone should learn from how they play.”
• Cosmos are back: The second coming of the New York Cosmos won’t have Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer or crowds of 77,000, but the iconic team’s addition to the new incarnation of the NASL was big news last week. Owner Seamus O’Brien chose to join NASL rather than MLS because he prefers not to operate under MLS’ single-entity structure.
Said Aaron Davidson, the Chairman of the NASL Board of Governors: “The team owners are thrilled to welcome the Cosmos back to their birthplace and home, the NASL. The Cosmos ownership group’s decision to join the NASL is the ultimate validation of our efforts to bring back the league, which laid the foundation for soccer in North America.
“We look forward to respectfully honoring the legacy of the NASL and Cosmos of the 1970s to 1980s as we grow today’s NASL and play our role in driving the further development and maturation of soccer in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.”
• Thumbs down: To the Japanese Olympic committee, for making Japan’s World Cup champion women’s team fly economy class on the 13-hour flight to the London Olympics while the men’s team sat in business class.
“It should have been the other way around,” 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa told Japanese media. The Japanese soccer federation said the men got premium seats because they are professionals.