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AS Roma runs past MLS All-Stars

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Major League Soccer All-Star coach Peter Vermes, whose day job coaching Sporting Kansas City, did not look like a man who had just watched his squad lose a game 3-1.

Partly it was because it was an all-star game, but mostly it was because his city came through with shining colors Wednesday during the All-Stars' 3-1 loss to Italian team AS Roma.

"Every time you step inside the white lines, you want to win," Vermes said. "But I don't think the result was the key focus. It was really about a vision that became a reality.

"Our owners made a commitment to this franchise and this city. They were able to follow through with every single goal they set, and this week was another one of those."

AS Roma scored in the first four minutes of each half and cruised to the win in front of a Sporting Park record crowd of 21,175.

Alessandro Florenzi had a goal and an assist for Roma.

The game matched a team of stars with just one training session prior to the game against a team preparing for the upcoming season in Serie A, Italy's premier league. The lack of preparation may have cost the MLS, but the players enjoyed the week's activities.

"We face these guys (MLS All-Star teammates) all season long, and I've faced some of these guys for a number of years, but you never get to sit down for a meal or pick their brain," said Sporting KC defender Matt Besler, who also plays for the U.S. national team. "That's what's exciting for us. We get to come together for a couple of days and ask each other some things and have some fun, too.

"The other thing that sticks out for me is the first-class feel for Kansas City."

Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez scored the MLS goal in second-half stoppage time on a header. Vancouver Whitecaps striker Camilo Sanvezzo assisted.

Roma came into the game with a purpose in mind, according to midfielder Michael Bradley, a U.S. national team mainstay.

"We all knew that (the MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea in last year's game)," he said. "For us it was motivation, especially for me. I played against guys I play with on the national team, a lot of good friends. There are a lot of good players, and I knew they were going to be up for this game."

That approach paid off quickly, as Kevin Strootman streaked past the defense and pushed one past FC Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez in the fourth minute. Florenzi picked up an assist.

The MLS defense seemed as if it were still trying to figure out where it was supposed to be when Roma scored.

"They were very organized in all aspects of the game," Vermes said. "They had great balance and discipline in the way they moved forward. They were able to bring pressure really well, switching the point of attack in all facets of the game."

Roma controlled most of the early action, and it outshot MLS 6-3 in the first half.

"The first 60 minutes the game had good pace," Bradley said. "It wasn't a typical all-star game. There was some real pace to the game."

Roma just missed a couple of scoring chances besides Strootman's goal. Roma had four shots on goal in the first 15 minutes before MLS got its first chance.

MLS stabilized later in the half, and even had a couple of solid chances to get one past goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis, but the Roma defense deflected each chance. The best opportunity -- and the biggest early roar from the crowd -- came when Sporting KC's Aurelien Collin tried a header off a set play midway through the first half. Collin's attempt sailed over the crossbar.

Roma coach Rudi Garcia said the atmosphere in Kansas City helped prepare his team for the upcoming season.

"It's a great stadium, and the atmosphere was great today," he said. "It was like a league game for us. It was a game against a very strong team. To win like that is very good for us.."

The second half started the way the first half did, after mass substitutions for the MLS team left the defense searching. In the 47th minute, Florenzi scored off a perfect cross from Federico Balzaretti on the left wing. Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando had no chance to stop Florenzi's flick.

Junior Tallo scored the third goal for Roma. Stootman got behind the MLS defense, then crossed it to Tallo, who slid the ball past Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran for the shot past Rimando.

NOTES: At halftime, commissioner Don Garber announced that MLS plans to expand to 24 teams by 2020. The league is adding its 20th franchise, New York City FC, for the 2015 season. ... Galaxy and U.S. national team star Landon Donovan played in his 13th consecutive MLS All-Star Game, dating back to 2001, his first year in the league. ... Wednesday's game marked the 10th time the MLS All-Stars have squared off against a squad from one of Europe's premier leagues. The MLS All-Stars are 6-3-1 all-time. Manchester United owned the only two European victories in series prior to Roma's win. ... Eight of the 20 MLS All-Stars were making their All-Star Game debut. The most debutants in an All-Star Game was 14 in 2009. ... AS Roma has won three Serie A titles since its inception in 1927, the last in 2000-01.
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