Chelsea Women: International Champions Cup review

Emma Hayes, Manager of Chelsea (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Emma Hayes, Manager of Chelsea (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images) /

The second trip to the United States for Chelsea was much more successful than the first earlier in the month. Having qualified for one of the most prestigious preseason tournaments in women’s football, the Chelsea Women had their eyes set on building up their squad players’ fitness as the season creeps closer. It was essentially a world class free kick and one woeful mistake at the back that cost the Blues a trip to the ICC final.

While they may have finished in third place in the Women’s International Champions Cup, Chelsea is leaving the U.S. knowing it can compete with one of the best clubs in Europe. The knowledge that many of the club’s new signings fit in almost seamlessly with what the team is trying to do is also calming. From the finish by Sam Kerr just minutes into the tournament to Kadeisha Buchanan demonstrating elite calmness at the back, the Blues leave Portland with their heads held high, knowing there is plenty to look forward to in the season ahead.

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Here is how the Chelsea Women performed at the WICC in Portland

The first 60 minutes against Lyon were a reality check for the Blues, showing them that they can hang with the top club in Europe. Two missed penalties in the shootout caused them to settle for a spot in the third-place game, but for a majority of the match against the defending Champions League winners, Chelsea played its most positive football of the tournament.

As usual for the preseason, the Blues missed several chances in front of the net that it most likely would finish when the team is in mid-season form. Pace up top continues to be something the back line struggles with, but once the defenders in the back play together even more, the breakthroughs may not be as constant as the chemistry is established.

The team that played against the Thorns is most likely the starting line-up that will kick off the FA Women’s Super League season in just a few weeks’ time. Arguably the most important thing was that the Blues walked away without any injuries on a turf pitch with Fran Kirby receiving some much-needed rest after a hard-fought European Championships. In the system that was used, Pernille Harder had much more freedom and space to attack up front. When she reaches top form, Harder is one of the most creative and crafty finishers on the team.

Chelsea was on the front foot until Emma Hayes made some changes to get each individual off the bench some time on the pitch in a match that is all about getting fit for the actual season ahead. The Thorns asked questions of the Blues on multiple occasions, but the defense was sturdy. While there were many missed chances, Guro Reiten’s emphatic left-footed effort was enough to guide the Blues to a win against one of the NWSL’s most prestigious sides.

Following the win over Portland on its home ground, Hayes expressed her thoughts on her team’s time in the Rose City by stating:

"“This has been a really good trip for the whole team, we are really excited for the season … Of course, we are excited about going back to Kingsmeadow, seeing our fans, to go home, its been a great tour, happy days.”"

Hayes has repeatedly said that Chelsea is not done in the transfer market this summer, as the Blues are being linked to two world class players, including Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Grace Geyoro. It is hard to highlight what kind of player Chelsea needs to bring in after a busy transfer window that added an enormous amount of depth to a squad that has high aspirations to lift as many trophies as possible, but if anyone knows, it’s Hayes.

Eve Perisset and Buchanan were two of the standouts when it came to the newest signings for the Blues in the United States. Perisset provides speed, awareness and an ability to swing in dangerous crosses that Kerr will no doubt be on the end of throughout several contests this season. Buchanan makes Hayes’ job even more difficult, trying to figure out who to play in a potential back four this season.

The Canadian plays the game awfully like Thiago Silva, captaining the middle of the defense with precision, but Buchanan possesses far more speed and she has a lot to learn at the age of just 26. She caused fits for her former club, Lyon, in the semifinal, stepping in front of passing lanes and not giving an inch when the opposition was on the attack. In her new No. 10 shirt, Lauren James looked like a new signing on the right side of the midfield too.

James netted a sensational goal against Lyon to extend the lead to two, receiving a ball from Kerr and cutting it back to her left foot before striking it beyond the arms of the outstretched goalkeeper. James played just 113 minutes in the league last season, but this time out, she is expected to see a whole new workload, getting back to herself health-wise and taking the No. 10 shirt from club legend, Ji So-yun. James leaves Providence Park filled with confidence as she made a statement to not only the club, but the WSL as a whole, that she is ready to take her game to the next level at Kingsmeadow this season.

In contrast to the men’s team, the women’s team returns from the United States on a much higher note. The Blues may have fallen short of the ultimate goal in their first appearance in the ICC, but the tournament served its much-needed purpose: building chemistry and creating confidence for each individual in the squad as they build up fitness.

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Next up for Chelsea is a contest against its London rival, Tottenham, at Kingsmeadow on August 28 in the final preseason game before the WSL season begins. The Blues kick off the league season at Stamford Bridge for the second time since 2019 against West Ham United.