There were packed concerts in the P & L from big time stars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and the Silver Sun Pickups (with local rockers Radkey). There was an event on the Plaza that had local celebs kicking balls over Brush Creek. Sporting KC defender Aurelien Collin debuted his fashion line, AC78, using his teammates and other MLS stars as models. Commissioner Don Garber announced that the league would be adding four more teams by 2020, prompting Sporting defender Matt Besler to start the campaign for a second team in Kansas City.
And AS Roma, the storied Italian club that the MLS All Stars faced Wednesday night, were seen all over KC rocking out their trim Versace suits in true Euro style.
Most everyone agreed that the All Star “experience” in KC was second to none. I wish I could say the same about the actual game.
Things didn’t start so well for starting defender Collin. He got burned straight up the middle off a little flick in just the 4th minute, putting Roma up 1-0. It actually looked like an own goal to me, as Collin tried to slide in at the last moment, but Roma striker Kevin Strootman was credited.
A minute later the visitors should have made it 2-0, but were called for a questionable offside call.
Needless to say, if the MLS All Stars had gone down two that early, things would’ve gotten ugly. The crowd was already somewhat subdued, much more so than the norm for a Sporting home game.
A few minutes later, Roma had another real chance. It easily could have been 3-0 to the Euros 10 minutes in. Which would have been a total nightmare for MLS.
Then hometown stud Graham Zusi raised his hand and asked to be subbed in just the 23rd minute. Turns out he strained a quad, and is now listed as questionable for this Saturday’s huge home game against the New York Red Bulls.
It seemed nothing would go right.
The All Stars were not looking good, seemed disjointed, and were looking around at each other starting to point fingers as if to say, “Hey, I thought we were going to come out and try to win this thing…”
But what do you expect, really? The All Stars had about a day to train together and come up with a game plan, whereas Roma is tuning up for their regular season in the Italian Serie A.
“If all we are looking to do is to win a game, then you can easily set something up,” said All Star coach Peter Vermes afterwards. “These are real games with real teams that come in here to play and sometimes the results don’t go your way. But at the end, it’s more than just the winning of the game. It’s about the experience for everyone who participates in it.”
The visitors started the 2nd half just like the first, with a goal just a minute in to make the score 2-0. After the ball was possessed on the left flank, the Roma winger sent in a long cross on the ground that found a teammate streaking into the area unmarked for an easy side foot tap in.
The rout was officially on.
In fact, the All Stars didn’t even get a shot on goal until the 63rd minute, and it was a very ambitious 35 yarder that dribbled its way into the waiting hands of Roma’s backup keeper.
Then Roma twisted the dagger, scoring another point blank goal in the 69th minute.
The Italians showed their class and highlighted the gradually shrinking distance between most players in the two leagues. Roma never just kicks the ball without a plan, and rarely kicks it further than 15 yards. There are no blind clearances, few crosses, and never a ball that is just booted to relieve pressure. The visitors ability to win the ball in their own defensive end, possess it, and then build forward was impressive. I mention all this because these are all things that have frustrated me about Sporting KC (and the Wizards) over the years, things that the best teams can do.
“When you give these guys a half-second or half-step, and when you are all not on the same page with only one training session, it really does make it tough,” said Besler afterwards. “These guys are world-class players and you saw some of the passes they were making. They made it difficult for us to defend.”
Around the 80th minute, fans started filing out, due in part I’m sure to the late 8:30 start time.
Those that tried to beat the traffic, though, missed out on the All Stars finally getting on the score sheet in added time off an Omar Gonzalez header. The goal really didn’t mean much at that point though, except to Roma boss Rudi Garcia:
“We still have to work hard because the proof is that we have not been able to keep our sheet clean.”
He also heaped praise on his star midfielder, US National player Michael Bradley, who had an excellent showing completely bulldogging the center of the pitch.
“Michael is not only a great player but a good man. We are proud to have such a player, such a man with us, and he is a good ambassador for your country. The future of Michael is that he is going to be an important player for us.”
All things considered, it’s hard to say that the near-weeklong MLS All Star experience was anything other than a tremendous success, even if the actual game was a bit sub-par.
Besler summed things up just about right:
“The game didn’t go our way. But if you look at the whole week, the experience, Kansas City was unbelievable. For me, to see it first hand, I knew they were going to be great. But everyone else coming in, at the meals, at training, before the game, everyone was talking about Kansas City and how nice everything was. We did take the game seriously, but again, there are a lot of challenges coming into a game like this. You have to give credit to Roma. They played well tonight and are a very good team.”