KANSAS CITY, Kan. – All-Star week was all about Kansas City, but hoping for a Sporting-esque showing from the hosts against AS Roma was simply asking too much.
After straggling in from Gold Cup duty and MLS cities across the country, Monday’s training session was short on numbers and held in a hotel ballroom because of inclement weather. That left Tuesday as the lone opportunity for Peter Vermes to get his 18-man roster on the same page.
It showed, too, as Roma cruised to a 3-1 victory at Sporting Park that exposed just how difficult it is to cobble a cohesive team from unfamiliar parts in a matter of days. And as for replicating Sporting KC’s high-pressure style? That was out of the question from the very start.
“I said to [Tim Cahill], ‘I would to have a month with this group of guys,' because there are so many different qualities that these guys bring to the table that would be a lot of fun to work with on a regular basis,” head coach Peter Vermes said. “It’s taken us awhile to for us to build our style of play, and there’s no way we could have done it in one training session. That’s for sure.”
And even though chances were scarce and Roma seemed in control throughout, the MLS All-Stars did manage a consolation goal through substitute Omar Gonzalez and found a way to compete without the benefit of weeks, months or even years together.
"I thought it was relatively even – a real hard-fought game. We had some rough parts and some good parts, and obviously their final ball was a lot better than our final ball,” midfielder Will Johnson said. “Two of their goals were somewhat lucky with some fortuitous bounces, but that's the game sometimes. We're obviously disappointed with the result because we wanted to represent the league better than we did, but I don't think there are any real negatives coming out of this game. I really don't think so."
For Vermes, it was all positive other than the result, which is more a reflection of the format than anything else. And what he may have enjoyed the most was seeing a different side to the players he game-plans against every single week in MLS.
“When you compete against these guys week in and week out, you don’t really get a chance to know them the way I got a chance to get to know them this week, Vermes said. “Intimately talking about different things – what they think, how they go about their business, their professionalism. Class group of guys.”
Unfortunately, they couldn’t translate that to the field against a Roma side boasting the likes of Francesco Totti, Michael Bradley, Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi.
That didn’t dampen their spirits, though.
In a perfect world, the All-Stars would have left Sporting Park with their first Italian scalp. Instead, they left with a hard-fought defeat and memories built up during a brilliant few days in the City of Fountains.
"It was too bad that we let in three goals … but we weren't playing such a bad team,” Gonzalez said. “Roma is a team with a lot of quality, and we just saw how great Totti is on the ball, with his vision, his quality of passing. I was just having fun out there watching, and I had a good time playing."
"I'm not leaving with my head down,” he added. “I think this week was about having some fun and I hope everyone involved had a great time."