AS Roma sent a message when they defeated the MLS All-Stars 3-1 in a preseason friendly on Wednesday night at Sporting Park in Kansas City, MO.
Roma proved that they are well in the works of preparing for the coming Italian Serie A season and helped grow their brand by showcasing their strong offense and resolute defense in their victory over the All-Stars.
Kevin Strootman opened the scoring for Roma in the 4th minute, giving them a lead that they never relinquished. Alessandro Florenzi, who was later named the match MVP, scored Roma's second goal in the 47th minute while US national team midfielder Michael Bradley set up Junior Tallo for a simple, open-net finish in the 68th minute. LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez headed in a consolation goal off a Camilo Sanvezzo freekick for the All-Stars in second half stoppage time to make it 3-1.
The result makes MLS' record against international teams in All-Star games 7-3-1. Though All-Star teams have beaten Chelsea, Celtic, Fulham, Chivas de Guadelajara, and West Ham United in the past, wins haven't been as easy to come by in recent years. MLS has lost three of its last four All-Star games, losing twice in a row to Manchester United and now against Roma.
On Wednesday, the All-Stars looked like a team of strangers. The team, which is selected by fan and media voting, plus selections by the All-Star coach and League Commissioner, was made up of 22 players from 14 different teams. Most of the players had never played together and had never been directed by Peter Vermes, the All-Star coach.
Roma didn't have to play beautiful soccer to run circles around the All-Stars. That's jaw-dropping, since they're in flux too. It was only the second game for their new head coach, Rudi Garcia, and their nine new summer signings are still getting used to each other on the field. Nevertheless, Roma's famed players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, alongside new blood such as Bradley and Florenzi, put on a show, ripping holes through the All-Star defense and midfield.
MLS should consider abandoning All-Star games where a collection of the league's best players square off against an international club. The All-Stars, while strong on paper, don't know each other well enough on the field to put together a quality performance. In the past, the Italian Press has had a field day criticizing American soccer. Wednesday night's All-Star performance didn't do much to suppress those criticisms.
The result, while a great spectacle from a neutral perspective, damages the credibility of the league. It would probably be easier to measure the strength of MLS and more advantageous to only arrange friendlies between league teams and foreign clubs.
In the past, the Revolution have played exhibition matches against the likes of Celtic, Sporting CP, Benfica, and other international clubs. Teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris St. Germain, and others have also made stops to the US to take on MLS teams. League teams are more representative of the state of MLS and their players know each other's tendencies.
Next Wednesday, Roma will play Toronto FC, a league team. Toronto are currently second to last in the Eastern Conference and are favored to lose. But because their players have a tactical understanding with one another, it's likely that that game will be more competitive and easier on the eyes than the All-Star game.
Against the All-Stars, Roma had no difficulty quieting Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski, Mike Magee, Marco DiVaio, and Jack McInerny, who are all regarded as the league's best offensive players. That's because the tactics just weren't there for those players to look and play their best against Roma.
It's a living example of Herb Brooks' argument before the 1980 Olympic Games: All-Star teams fail because they count on a collection of good players and their individual skills. Instead, Brooks built a team from the ground up, teaching them tactics and establishing a chemistry. It paid off, as his team went on to win the Olympics and knockout the Soviet Union, the best team in the tournament.
Vermes did not have anywhere near enough time to build that kind of tactical understanding. The players flew straight to Kansas City from their respective clubs, tried to acclimate as best as possible with a few training sessions, and then threw on the multi-shaded blue All-Star jersey. As a result, the team, which counted on individual skill, rarely looked dangerous in the attack and was prone to giving the ball away.
Roma, who are owned by Boston-based business man James Pallotta, will travel to Boston on Friday for training before flying to Toronto. They round out their preseason tour with a game versus Chelsea in Washington DC on Aug. 10.
The purpose of the tour is two-fold. The friendlies are an excellent tune-up for the Serie A season, which begins for Roma in late August. But the tour is also a chance to reach out to supporters in the US and grow Roma's global recognition. Start taking note of Roma. A new Empire could be on the rise in the Eternal City.
If you want to reach Julian, email him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo
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