Now that the Sounders have secured a spot in their fourth straight U.S. Open Cup Final, fans can turn their attention to the highly anticipated (but much less stressful) friendly match against Chelsea next Wednesday. It’ll be the storied British club’s fifth visit to Seattle, having last faced the Sounders in 2009, when Chelsea won 2-0. Since not everyone has time to be a European football aficionado, we’ve narrowed it down to seven essential things to know about Chelsea before heading to CenturyLink Field.
1. The team is at an all-time high after winning the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. For the uninitiated, the Champions League title is basically the ultimate prize in soccer outside of the World Cup. That said, it’s generally accepted among hardcore soccer fans that the Champions League is the highest level of play, even above the World Cup, because the competition is among elite, cohesive professional teams instead of jumbled teams of national players who aren’t used to playing together regularly.
2. The team’s current nickname is The Blues, but the club was originally dubbed The Pensioners, after the retirement home for pensioning former members of the British Army at Royal Hospital Chelsea. Apparently the thought of old people playing shuffleboard and eating pudding didn’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents.
3. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea. Like most Russian billionaires, he’s not afraid of spending lavishly (which helps Chelsea land top talent) and has been accused of a laundry list of seedy business practices (bribes, blackmail, etc.).
4.Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea’s manager, might be the most successful interim coach of all time. Former Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas was fired in March after less then a year on the job, and Di Matteo stepped in to finish out what looked to be a disappointing year for The Blues. The club then improbably turned things around and won both the UEFA Champions League title and the F.A. Cup. Chelsea brass rewarded Di Matteo by removing his interim title and giving him a two-year contract.
5. Chelsea’s captain and defender John Terry knows how to get himself in hot water. Terry was the former captain of the British national team until allegations surfaced that he had an affair with the girlfriend of his teammate Wayne Bridge. He’s currently on trail for a racially aggravated public-order offense after being accused of slinging a racist taunt at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in 2011.
6. The club is close to signing Oscar, a central midfielder that many believe to be the next great Brazilian player, after offering his current club $25 million Euros as a transfer fee. He’s one of those players who has only one name, so he’s probably awesome.
7. The Blues have played at the same stadium, Stamford Bridge, since the club was founded in 1905. Chelsea fans actually own the stadium and in order for the club to relocate to a new site, 75 percent of those owner-fans need to approve the move. In 2011, Abramovich tried to relocate the team to a new, bigger stadium, but only got 61.5 percent of the vote. (Can we get this worked into the new Sonics arena deal?)
Sounders v. Chelsea
July 18 at 6:30, CenturyLink Field, $55–$150