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Local heroes are the heart of Roma

Posted by Julian Cardillo  August 27, 2013 12:06 AM

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Roma got their season off to a good start on Sunday thanks to two local stars. Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi both scored in the opening game at Livorno to help Roma clinch a 2-0 victory.

De Rossi tallied with a cannon from 30 yards out in the 65th minute to open the scoring. Florenzi one-timed a long ball from Leandro Castan into the back of the net from the edge of the penalty area just two minutes later.

It was the first time that Roma won a season opener since 2007.

On Sunday, it looked as though Livorno would prevent Roma from winning their opener for the fifth year in a row. Livorno frustrated Roma's midfielders for most of the game, clogging up the field and forcing the giallorossi to pass from side to side rather than working the ball into the penalty area.

Roma were also denied twice by the woodwork. First, Francesco Totti drilled the crossbar in the 24th minute with an effort from long range. Then, in the 57th minute, Florenzi ran into the penalty area and knicked a low drive off the far post.

It was fitting that Roma's two goals came in quick succession after they'd been pressing Livorno for over an hour. And, as part of the ecstasy of scoring, both goals had exuberant celebrations.

The entire team, including manager Rudi Garcia, assembled on the sideline for a huddle after De Rossi's bullet opened the scoring. After the second goal, Florenzi ran into the electronic advertising boards on the field, hurting his arm, on his way to celebrate with Roma fans that traveled 160 miles north of home to cheer on their team.

Soccer, or calcio, may be bursting at the seams in Italy, but fans still appreciate local heroes. Florenzi, De Rossi, and Francesco Totti are all native Romans. That trio of players is especially appreciated by the Roma faithful.

Totti, 36, has had options to move to top teams in England, Spain, and Germany throughout his career but has opted to captain Roma instead. De Rossi recently turned down a move to Chelsea in favor of remaining in Rome. And 22-year old Florenzi, still too young to get many offers from abroad, has pledged his future to the Roma jersey.

Roster turnover is inevitable in soccer, especially in Italy's Serie A, where teams make at least 12 transactions every summer. But it's been worth Roma's while to stick by their local products, even if other things change.

The team has gone through a makeover under Boston Celtics shareholder James Pallotta, now the club President, who changed the crest, has plans for a new stadium, and is attempting to build a recognizable global brand. The roster has changed over the years as well, though De Rossi, Totti, and Florenzi have been among the minority who have stayed.

Totti and De Rossi are aware that Roma fans demand at least a Champions League berth every year. They're also not pleased with the fact that despite being a high caliber team each season, Roma has won only three the scudetti, the Serie A title.

Meanwhile, Florenzi, who has only been on the roster since 2010, is still aware of Roma's trials and tribulations since he's a native Roman.

This trio recognizes what it means to wear the Roma jersey. They understand the sentiments and expectations of the supporters. They themselves are Roma fans and probably couldn't imagine playing anywhere else.

Roma will hope that Sunday's win at Livorno marks the beginning of a successful season, complete with a Champions League berth and a challenge for first place. It only makes sense that three local heroes were the ones to get the ball rolling.

Manchester United, Chelsea fit to be tied

On Monday, Premier League rivals Manchester United and Chelsea played to a 0-0 stalemate at Old Trafford. An open game with intricate midfield passes, stingy defending, and great runs by forwards made up the play for both sides.

In years past, each team would have thought a draw against the other was a fair result since both sides annually finished in the top three. But recently, successful clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea have been less enthusiastic about sharing points.

Rivalries aside, there is more parity in the Premier League now than there was three years ago. Man United and Chelsea were the only title contenders, alongside Arsenal and Liverpool.

The rise of teams like Manchester City, Tottenham, and Everton have made it so that quests for a title, or even a Champions League berth, are season-long dogfights. So while a 0-0 draw may look like one point gained in August, it could seem like two points lost by season's end.

Revolution's Bengston earns Honduras call

After a falling out with Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez before the Gold Cup, Jerry Bengston has earned his way back to the national team for two World Cup qualifiers.

He will be available for selection for the Revolution's match at Toronto on Friday, though he hasn't played since July 17. Bengston also hasn't scored a goal for the Revolution since March 9.

Bengston's form has been better with the Honduran national team, where he has scored seven goals in eight games. Honduras, who are ranked 43rd in the world by FIFA, play at Mexico on Sept. 6 and host Panama in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 10.

If you want to reach Julian, email him at julianccardillo@gmail.com and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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