Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Like other major sports leagues in North America, Major League Soccer takes a mid-season break for the All-Star game. The fans vote on the players selected to play in the match and the game is normally high scoring, just like in any other professional sports league in the United States. But there is one major difference that I am curious to get the fan’s opinions on. The MLS All-Stars do not play each other in a traditional East vs. West game, at least not anymore. Instead, the chosen All-Stars form one team and play a well-known, normally European club team in a match nationally televised on ESPN. This year’s MLS All-Stars will be facing off against AS Roma from Italy.
Roma finished sixth in Italy’s top flight league, Serie A, last season behind Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Udinese and Fiorentina. Finishing in fifth place has left them out of the UEFA Champions League once again. It is safe the say that the top three teams in Italy throughout history have been Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Those teams sit as my top tier clubs. The second tier includes this year’s opponent, Roma. They have spent every season in Italy’s top flight league, except for one season back in the 1950′s, winning the championship three times.
Italian National Team legend Francesco Totti, Roma legend Daniele De Rossi and U.S. National Team midfielder Michael Bradley highlight the team that AS Roma will be bringing to Kansas City. For American fans, getting to see Bradley up close & back in his home country should be a treat. In his recent press conference, Bradley spoke on how he feels coming back to the states to play in this match.
The problem I have with bringing in a team like AS Roma is that besides the players I just mentioned, the casual American fan doesn’t know who to watch in this match. Let’s be perfectly honest here, most “casual” soccer fans haven’t even heard of Roma. Like I mentioned, most associations with the Serie A relate to both teams in Milan and Juventus. Many soccer followers now consider the Serie A to be the third, forth or even fifth best league in the world and Roma hasn’t even finished in the top four to qualify for a Champions League spot in the last two years. So what reasons would cause fans to get excited about watching this match?
Despite the lack of household names such as Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, this game should be entertaining. Roma were among the league leaders in goals scored (71) last season and in goals allowed (56). They have a solid young core of up and coming players and should be looking to start their season off on the right foot after ending last season on a sour note and let’s also not forget that the MLS All-Stars will be putting a great deal of talent on the field themselves. Veterans Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane will lead a solid group of young, rising, U.S stars such as Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. All four of these players shined at different times over the past month during the championship run in the Gold Cup.
With all that said, will you be watching tomorrow night? If so, why? I think it is understood we can’t bring in Manchester United or Chelsea every single year, but are you satisfied with Roma as the opponent? Personally, I am content with it but I also follow most teams closer than the average fan. It is always fun to watch the best players in the league either compete against each other or together and I look forward to a competitive match when the MLS All-Stars and AS Roma square off tomorrow.