Soccer Notebook

Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo applauds American support of soccer

 

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

Chelsea spent nearly two weeks on an exhibition soccer tour of the United States that began in Seattle and ended Saturday night in Miami.

Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo and the team’s Spanish superstar forward Fernando Torres echoed each other’s positive sentiments about the soccer experience in America.

“I’m positively surprised by the interest and the wonderful soccer that we’ve seen during our time in the United States,” Di Matteo said. “Every city we’ve visited has wonderful enthusiasm about it. I believe it’s only a matter of time before soccer really takes off in the U.S.”

Chelsea has one more exhibition game before it begins its quest to win England’s Premier League, and AC Milan is in its second game of preparation for the opening of Italy’s Serie A regular season on Aug. 25.

The two international powerhouses played Saturday in front of 57,748 fans — the second-largest crowd to watch a soccer match in Sun Life Stadium history.

“I’m not surprised because all four cities we played in had great support from their fans,” Di Matteo said.

PRAISING MLS

Even though he did not play in the game, Torres praised the improvement of Major League Soccer after the league’s 3-2 All-Star game victory Wednesday against his club.

The MLS All-Stars, which included European superstars David Beckham and Thierry Henry, beat Chelsea for the second time in the event and first time since 2006.

The result was much-needed for the MLS, however, after losing the previous two All-Star games to Manchester United, 5-2 in 2010 and 4-0 in 2011.

Wednesday’s win, keyed by a pair of late goals from D.C. United’s Chris Pontius and the Seattle Sounders’ Eddie Johnson, helped the MLS rally from a 2-1 deficit in the final 17 minutes of the match.

Beckham even flew back from England for the match before heading back to his home country to attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.

“I still have a few years left to play in England,” Torres said. “It’s always amazing to come and play in America. The MLS is opening the eyes of everyone, and I think it showed in the way they played in the All-Star game.”

Torres is entering his second season with Chelsea after helping it win England’s FA Cup and its first UEFA Champions League title in 2011. When asked if he would consider playing for an MLS team some day, as other European stars such as Beckham and Henry have done, Torres gave a noncommittal response, saying he wouldn’t totally rule out the possibility, but that his focus was on playing professionally in England for the time being.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

AC Milan’s victory Saturday night came in its first appearance in South Florida since 1994 when it played the Colombian national team in front a crowd of 57,000.

It was Chelsea’s first game in South Florida.

UPCOMING GAMES

South Florida soccer fans won’t have to wait too long for another look at one of the world’s most popular clubs.

Argentina powerhouse club Boca Juniors will face off against the Honduras national team Aug. 15 at Sun Life Stadium at 7 p.m. Boca won Argentina’s Primera Division’s Apertura championship in 2011 and was a runner-up in the 2012 Copa Libertadores.

Fans can also catch a couple of other national teams that same date in Broward albeit in a much smaller than usual facility.

Canada and Trinidad and Tobago recently announced they would play a friendly on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill.

The teams originally sought to play at Lockhart Stadium, but the facility was unavailable, prompting the two sides to play at the nearly 3,000-seat venue.

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