KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The marquee matchup between Thierry Henry and Francesco Totti, old friends and players having competed against one another in the 2006 World Cup final, has been well publicized leading up to Wednesday night's 2013 MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City (9 pm ET, ESPN2/UniMas/TSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
The former French and Italian star men were both asked about their friendship and mututal respect as players as they are set to take the field on opposite sides once again on Wednesday night. Henry and Totti won't be the only pair of good friends lining up opposite one another in the summer showcase at Sporting Park, though.
And they certainly won't be the set of friends that go the furthest back in life, either. AS Roma and US national team midfielder Michael Bradley and Portland Timbers and Canadian national team midfielder Will Johnson have been good friends since long before the reality of becoming professional soccer players ever began to come into focus for the two tireless midfield workers.
Johnson moved from England to Illinois at the age of 10, only a short time before Bradley's father, Egyptian national team head coach Bob Bradley, took over as head coach of the Chicago Fire in 1998. Bradley, 25, and Johnson, 26, met through obvious soccer affiliations as youngsters, formed a close friendship and have stayed in touch as each's playing career has taken off. They were even teammates together at Heerenveen, from 2006 to 2008.
"We go way back, we keep in touch," Johnson told MLSsoccer.com following the All-Star team's short training session on Tuesday. "We're obviously good friends, and getting to celebrate this great event, even though we are on different teams, is something special for me."
The two were reunited at Sporting Park on Tuesday, stopping for a quick chat between training sessions for Roma and the All-Stars. Prior to that afternoon meet-up, it had been quite some time before Bradley and Johnson were able to connect with one another in person.
"We both are new fathers, so we have been a bit busy," Johnson said. "We haven't managed to see each other in the past year, but we always keep in touch on the phone and check in. We're good buddies, so we do make an effort to keep in touch."
While those moments together are often times too few and far between for professional soccer players, and nice when they happen, it won't be all hugs and smiles on Wednesday night for the two friends who met in suburban Chicago.
Johnson reiterated his intents for the game, stating "when we cross the white line, we're going to be doing everything we can to best represent our teams."