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Charlotte FC defeats Chelsea FC 5-3 in penalties

Stormy skies delayed kickoff for this transatlantic meeting.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte FC has defeated Chelsea FC 5-3 in penalties Wednesday night.

Bank of America Stadium hosted a battle between two blue teams: Charlotte FC and Chelsea FC. A lightning delay prevented the teams from taking the pitch at the intended 7:30 p.m., instead starting at 8:35 p.m. 

The friendly club match featured one of Major League Soccer's newest teams taking on an English stalwart. While neither Charlotte nor Chelsea racked up league points in this friendly match, the pitch served as a proving ground.

Chelsea took the lead in the First Half with a strike from Christian Pulisic, a U.S. Men's National Soccer Team player. In the 30th minute, a shot from Michy Batshuayi deflected off a Charlotte FC defender into Pulisic's feet. He quickly took the ball and squared it away into the net to give his team the advantage.

Charlotte FC was held scoreless until stoppage time in the Second Half when a handball inside the box lead to the hometown team being awarded a penalty kick.

Daniel Rios took the penalty kick and made good on his effort by notching in the kick to tie the game.

While most games end after 90 minutes and a brief stoppage period, this friendly game was extended to finish under penalty kicks to decide a winner.

Charlotte FC made all five of their penalty kicks, while a miss from Chelsea's Conor Gallagher sealed their fate and gave Charlotte the win.

Before kickoff, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper was on the pitch with officials from the United Kingdom in a pre-game jersey swap. This recognized Wednesday's earlier announcement that the UK signed a state-level agreement with North Carolina for economic development in green trade, namely electric car development and offshore wind.

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For the match against Chelsea FC, big teams mean big crowds. Management at Mellow Mushroom in Uptown said they welcomed and prepared for the extra boost to business.

“It’s just all hands on deck,” Mellow Mushroom manager Debbie Petoskey said. “We have about 10 servers -- three behind the bar all of us managers, five of us, just kind of staffed up for it.”

And those who live in Uptown say they notice the difference too.

“Us as residents we don’t move anywhere, we know to stay put because traffic is crazy, people everywhere,” Kiki Johnson said.

But most agree the busy crowds are a pleasant change from the COVID-19 ghost town that Uptown once was just a few years ago.

“It’s just that soccer brings a different type of energy that this city I think has been craving for so long,” Charlotte FC Fan Tyler Bush said.

Last week, Charlotte FC was stung with a 3-2 loss to Inter Miami FC in their second-ever meeting. Charlotte started that match strong, but Miami hit the jets toward the end of stoppage time to pull ahead.

Meanwhile, Chelsea was coming off a friendly 2-1 win against Club America on July 16, but a loss to Liverpool FC in penalties for the FA Cup. Chelsea found the net five times in penalty kicks, but Liverpool got the edge by just one.

After the dust settles in Uptown Charlotte, Chelsea will cross the Atlantic back to England for the Florida Cup final against rival club Arsenal on Saturday. Charlotte FC will head north that day to take on Toronto FC.

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Ahead of Wednesday's match, WCNC Charlotte sports reporter Ashley Stroehlein sat down with goalie Kristijan Kahlina for a 1-on-1 interview. He talked about how he and the team work together, adapting to life in the United States, and how the black and blue's fans have opened their arms to him.

Watch the full interview below:

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