Wrexham opens US tour with 5-0 loss to Chelsea before 50,596 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Jul 19, 2023, 7:49 PM

Chelsea's Ian Maatson, left, celebrates a goal with Nicolas Jackson, center, while Wrexham's Jacob ...

Chelsea's Ian Maatson, left, celebrates a goal with Nicolas Jackson, center, while Wrexham's Jacob Mendy (19) walks past during the first half of a club friendly soccer match Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Sue Martin had the summer mapped out for her family from St. Augustine, Florida.

Then along came word that Chelsea and Wrexham would play a preseason friendly on U.S. soil.

“We had a whole vacation planned and they dropped this game,” Martin said before . “We needed to be here. We love soccer. We love Ryan Reynolds.”

Reynolds and co-owner Rob McElhenney have taken Wrexham from a struggling fifth-tier side to a fan favorite, largely through the globally-streamed docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham.” The Red Dragons opened a four-game preseason U.S. tour Wednesday night with a 5-0 loss to Chelsea, which got two goals from Ian Maatsen and one each from Conor Gallagher, Christopher Nkunku and Ben Chilwell. The game drew 50,596 to Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The match was a must-see event and the first of its kind in this college town. Chelsea, coming off a miserable 13th-place finish in the Premier League, was the 2021 European champion, Wrexham, the oldest club from Wales, earned promotion to English soccer’s fourth tier.

Brian and Jenny Roper and their 11-year-old son Logan from St. Petersburg, Florida, saw Chelsea play last year in Orlando. They didn’t flinch at making a longer trek. As a bonus, this one included Wrexham.

“(Logan) plays a lot of soccer,” Brian Roper said. “I want to show him what real soccer looks like. There’s the novelty of them playing Wrexham. My wife would even enjoy this because she knows Wrexham.”

Martin’s family of four sported gear supporting both Chelsea and Wrexham. Pregame festivities on the humid night were spread around campus.

Matseen scored in the third and 42d minutes, the second goal on a shot from the top of penalty area. Gallagher added a goal in the 80th, Nkunku in the 90th and Chilwell in the third minute of stoppage time.

Wrexham, which opened the preseason last weekend with a 4-2 win over Wales’ Bala Town. plays at LA Galaxy II on Saturday against the Manchester United youth academy on July 25 at San Diego at at Philadelphia Union II on July 29. Wrexham opens the League 2 season at home against the MK Dons on Aug. 5.

Chelsea, under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, faces Brighton on Saturday at Philadelphia, Newcastle on July 26 in Atlanta, Fulham on July 30 at Landover, Maryland, and Borussia Dortmund on Aug. 2 at Chicago. The Blues open the Premier League at home against Liverpool on Aug. 13.

“It has been fantastic,” North Carolina athletics director Bubba Cunningham said. “It’s a great event. We all get excited about unique, fun events and this is one of them.”

The locals were checking it out as well.

Nathan Gardner, a teacher from nearby Efland, brought his 16-year-old son Carson to take in the scene. The elder Gardner said he became familiar with Wrexham through the streaming show.

“When it was announced, I saw it and said, ‘They’re coming here?’” Gardner said. “I was pretty shocked, but I want to see it.”

North Carolina men’s basketball coach Hubert Davis and family walked into the stadium without much fanfare about 40 minutes prior to the scheduled start. This is the same venue where in less than two months Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye will try to bolster his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

More than 1.5 million pounds of sod was installed last week to cover the stadium’s artificial turf surface. Hedges that circled the stadium’s field were removed in 2019.

“We couldn’t do it until the hedges came out,” Cunningham said of the stadium set-up. “One thing we all talk about in college athletics is it brings community. This is one that is a community event. It’s a nice economic impact. And when I looked at the other cities that are hosting this, we’re barely a neighborhood compared to some of those cities.”


More AP soccer: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

United States News

(AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)...

Associated Press

As migrants overwhelm a Texas border city, others wait in Mexico for appointments to enter the US

Some migrants who arrive at the border stop in Texas only stop for a quick meal before crossing the Rio Grande.

49 minutes ago

Associated Press

Seattle police officer put on leave after newspaper reports alleged off-duty racist comments

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle police officer has been placed on administrative leave after Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Friday he listened to an audio recording including comments by the officer that led to the filing of a bias/hate complaint. “As I have said from the beginning of my tenure as Chief of Police, […]

1 hour ago

Kouri Richins, left, a Utah mother of three who authorities say fatally poisoned her husband, Eric ...

Associated Press

Jailhouse letter adds wrinkle in case of mom accused of killing husband, then writing kids’ book

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Jailhouse writings by a Utah mother accused of killing her husband, then writing a children’s book about death, have led prosecutors to accuse her of trying to tamper with witnesses, an allegation that her attorneys say is baseless. A relative of Kouri Richins meanwhile went public in an interview Friday […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Jury convicts ex-NFL draft prospect of fatally shooting man at Mississippi casino

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A former NFL draft prospect has been found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for shooting a man to death on the floor of a casino on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Jurors deliberated for only 46 minutes Thursday before reaching a guilty verdict in the trial of Jereme […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. __ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Buttigieg; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate; Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. __ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Olena Zelenska, first lady of Ukraine; Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.; Rep. Tony Gonzales, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Video of Elijah McClain’s stop by police shown as officers on trial in Black man’s death

BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — Elijah McClain’s mother left a Colorado courtroom in tears Friday after prosecutors showed video footage of the 23-year-old Black man pinned down by police officers during a fatal 2019 confrontation, which rose to prominence during nationwide protests over racial discrimination and excessive force in policing. Two officers from the Denver suburb […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.



When most diets fail, re:vitalize makes a difference that shows

Staying healthy and losing weight are things many people in Arizona are conscious of, especially during the summer.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Wrexham opens US tour with 5-0 loss to Chelsea before 50,596 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina