New Chelsea coach debuts against Sounders FC

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 18, 2009 01:05 hrs

If Steve Zakuani and the Seattle Sounders FC get embarrassed on Saturday when they face English Premier League power Chelsea FC in an exhibition, the London native already knows his first move post-match.

"If we do bad I'm going to turn my phone off for the next 24 hours after," Zakuani said.

The Sounders get the MLS' first shot against some of the top powers from Europe when they host Chelsea on Saturday. The exhibition match begins a stretch of games in America for some of the top clubs from Italy, England and Spain as the European squads prepare for the beginning of their seasons later in the summer.

The match will be the debut of new Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti after his move in the offseason from AC Milan, becoming the third coach at Stamford Bridge in the past year.

"In this work the pressure is normal. I am happy to be at Chelsea," Ancelotti said Friday, a day after the Blues arrived in Seattle. "I like the work of the players, they've started the season very well and they work with very good mental attitude. Tomorrow is the first game of the season, we want to start well, so it is an important game. We want to win and play well."

Ancelotti is in the beginning stages of getting to know his new team and understanding the pressures in London of getting back on top of the Premier League. Chelsea will also play Inter Milan, AC Milan and Club America as part of its preseason tour preparing for its Aug. 15 season opener against Hull.

Thrown in during this early season tour is the saga of captain John Terry, who continues to be pursued by Manchester City despite Chelsea's rejections of a transfer. Before practicing at Qwest Field late Friday, Ancelotti essentially guaranteed that Terry will remain the Blues captain.

"I am sure he will remain in Chelsea," Ancelotti said. "I am sure, 100 percent. He has a contract for three years more and this is the situation now."

Terry's teammates say his saga is not a distraction.

"He doesn't pay attention to that," striker Salomon Kalou said. "Maybe if he was paying attention to that it might disturb a little bit of the team, but you can tell he is not disturbed by this situation."

Meanwhile, the match is a welcome break from the monotony of the MLS season for the Sounders, which happens to land during a hectic stretch.

After beating Western Conference-leading Houston last weekend, Seattle plays Chelsea, then hosts Houston next Tuesday in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Following their match with the Dynamo, it's back to MLS play with games July 25 against Chicago, Aug. 2 at San Jose and then another major exhibition Aug. 5 when FC Barcelona comes to town.

If a couple of international matches had to be thrown into the schedule, these are the type Seattle coach Sigi Schmid welcomes.

"The ones we're playing are the kind of international matches that perks everybody up," Schmid said. "If you're playing international match where you're going to play some 'X' team from El Salvador that's probably not going to perk you up too much — no offense to the El Salvadorians — but you know playing a Chelsea, playing a Barcelona gets everybody pumped up."

For Seattle's two stars with major European experience — midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and goalkeeper Kasey Keller — facing Chelsea is old hat. From Ljungberg's time with Arsenal and West Ham, and Keller's seasons with a number of European squads, the duo have seen the Blues more times than they can, or want, to remember.

"Freddie and I have played against Chelsea many times — too many times — but for the (young) guys it's a great opportunity for the guys to put themselves against some of the best, well-paid players in the world and it's always nice to judge yourself," Keller said.

Zakuani grew up with the Blues as one of his foes. Raised in London, he entered Arsenal's youth program and faced Chelsea four or five times a year for much of his childhood. He even holds a memory few can match at age 21: Zakuani has scored a goal at Stamford Bridge."It's going to be a fun day, especially for those of us that one day want to go to Europe," Zakuani said. "It's a measure for us."

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