RAHEEM STERLING had an unremarkable debut in a Chelsea shirt as Thomas Tuchel's men lost on penalties to Charlotte FC.
Sterling, 27, made his first appearance off the bench since joining from Manchester City for a deal worth £50m this month.
Having flown out to LA to join up with his new teammates after completing his medical last week, the anticipation to see Sterling from fans in Charlotte was high.
However, the England international looked rusty and in need of match sharpness in front of almost 53,000 at the Bank of America Stadium.
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USA international Pulisic scored a 30th minute goal in an otherwise drab affair in Chelsea's penultimate pre-season tour outing.
That was until Daniel Rios' injury time spot-kick after Trevor Chalobah's handball meant the game was decided from 12-yards.
The shoot-out included a panenka by Rios and a terrible miss down the middle from Conor Gallagher.
Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Sterling all scored with their attempts but ex-Derby County forward Kamil Jozwiak ensured Charlotte won 5-3.
Kick-off was delayed by just over an hour as fans were evacuated from the stadium due to lightning and thunderstorms, but eventually the game started at 20:35pm US time.
Unlike in Las Vegas, Tuchel opted for a stronger bench to come on the second half in Charlotte – with new-boy Sterling the stand-out name.
The likes of Mason Mount, Gallagher, Havertz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Chilwell joined their new teammate on the sidelines for the first half.
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Michy Batshuayi started up top with Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech, Mateo Kovacic partnered Jorginho in midfield and Edouard Mendy was in goal.
Timo Werner and Ross Barkley did not travel from their base in Orlando after picking up injuries, while back-up keeper Kepa also missed the trip.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – being used by Tuchel at right wing-back – had the first shot of the evening after cutting inside before Ziyech curled one past the post.
Christian Pulisic then received a yellow for a nasty challenge in the box and Chelsea should have gone behind TWICE soon after.
Poland international Karol Swiderski’s header almost beat Mendy before Yordy Reyna’s effort smacked the post.
But the visitors made Charlotte pay in the 30th minute as Pulisic latched on to a deflected Batshuayi shot to finish a one-on-one.
Pulisic almost had a second three minutes later had he connected with Ziyech’s fine cross, and Batshuayi was put through only to fluff his lines.
Chelsea made 10 changes at half time, including Sterling, with Mendy remaining in goal while Mount took the captain’s armband.
Sterling almost grabbed a maiden goal from Gallagher’s low cross before Ampadu went close with a scuffed volley.
Yet Chelsea’s new signing looked off the pace for most of the half, with two mazy runs into the box – with one ending with a shot on target – his best moments.
Mount was impressive in patches, forcing Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina into a fine stop.
But Chalobah's handball in the box from Brian Carmona Romero's effort late on allowed Rios to score from the spot.
Up next for Chelsea in their last match of their American tour is against Arsenal in Orlando on Saturday, where another new face Kalidou Koulibaly could feature.
TEAM (3-4-3): Mendy; James, Silva, Emerson; Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Pulisic, Batshuayi
SUBS: Sharman-Lowe, Chilwell, Azpilicueta, Ampadu, Chalobah, Colwill, Sarr, Gallagher, Mount, Sterling, Havertz
NOT INCLUDED: Kepa, Bettinelli, Barkley, Werner
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