Former UC Santa Barbara soccer star Chris Pontius was named Most Valuable Player of match-up between Major League Soccer All-Stars and Chelsea FC on Wednesday at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
The All-Stars last faced Chelsea in 2006, pulling off a 1-0 upset. This time around, though down 2-1 early in the second half, the All-Stars once again managed to come away with an upset win, as Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson found the back of the net in injury time to give the All-Stars a 3-2 victory.
While the final heroics came from Johnson, it was a pair of former Gauchos who brought the match to that moment. With the score tied at one in the 58th minute, Chelsea's Frank Lampard scored to give Chelsea its first and only lead of the game. Not long before that, Chivas U.S.A goalie and another UCSB alum Dan Kennedy made a spectacular save off another Lampard shot to keep the game tied at one. Had he not gotten to that ball, the match may have ended very differently.
As it was, however, Lampard's goal only gave Chelsea a one-goal lead, and for another Gaucho alum, the game was far from over. Pontius, hero of so many games during his time at UCSB, had been a thorn in Chelsea's side for most of the match. In the 71st minute, fellow D.C. United player Dwayne De Rosario found Pontius with a pass, and Pontius, seemingly with ease, put the ball past Chelsea goalie Ross Turnbull to tie the game at two apiece. For that goal, and for his performance throughout the match, Pontius earned the Volkswagen MVP award in his first All-Star appearance.
With the All-Stars back in the game, the defense, led by Vancouver's Jay DeMerit, held on until injury time, when Johnson came through with the game-winner. The match showcased just how far the MLS has come. Even the Chelsea players, who rank among the best in the world, were impressed with what the United States had to offer. Wednesday's match proved that the All-Stars could compete on an international level, and two Gauchos had a lot to do with that.