By FRANCO PANIZO
KANSAS CITY – The MLS All-Star team’s practice session inside of Sporting Park on Tuesday morning may have been noticeably lighter than that of AS Roma, but that does not mean they are taking their match against the Italian heavyweights any less seriously.
The MLS All-Star squad practiced for little less than an hour a day before they hosting Roma in a game that is expected to be played in front of a sold-out crowd. But that was all part of the design drawn up by All-Star head coach Peter Vermes, who wants to keep the MLS players fresh ahead of Wednesday night’s clash with Roma.
“The gameplan is for us to go and try to be smart, don’t give the ball away in easy areas of the field so that we’re not running all over the place,” said Vermes. “Then the other [thing] is just stay compact and not give too many things away. You can’t go into this game and have this unbelievable gameplan because this is our first training together as a team.
“Just keep it really simple is the biggest thing. These guys know how to play, they’ve played for a long time. The biggest difficulties is they won’t know each other’s tendencies all throughout the game but somehow really good players find a way to work together.”
Here are more notes from Tuesday’s MLS All-Star practice:
COLLIN TO GO THE DISTANCE
A big talking point at seemingly every MLS All-Star game is which players will be forced to play 90 minutes during a midweek match that is usually followed by a full slate of MLS fixtures. Vermes joked about making Thierry Henry go the distance vs. Roma ahead of Sporting Kansas City’s home game against New York Red Bulls on Saturday, but Vermes’ tone turned more serious when talking about one of his own players who will.
That player is centerback Aurelien Collin.
“Collin is going to play 90, in my eyes,” said Vermes. “He will be one guy and there’s one other player I need to pick, so I’m going to do my best to pick whoever that guy is because I know I’m going to hear it from that team.
“Outside of that, everybody won’t play a full game.”
DONOVAN PRAISES GROWING TALENT IN MLS
Landon Donovan almost missed out on this MLS All-Star game not only because he missed a good chunk of the first half of the season, but also because the number of players who are enjoying stand-out campaigns has increased.
While Donovan could have downplayed that latter notion and said that his self-imposed sabbatical and subsequent return was the big reason for him almost missing out on what is going to be his record 13th straight MLS All-Star appearance, he didn’t. Instead, he praised the growing amount of talent within MLS.
“It’s a lot more difficult to make this team than it has been in the past years,” said Donovan. “There’s more teams, obviously, but there’s just better players throughout the league and there’s guys that are not here that are very deserving and it’s getting more and more competitive. I think that’s a very good thing for our league.”
ROMA TO USE MATCH AS WAY TO GAUGE WHERE THEY ARE
Roma may be using their trip to the United States and match vs. the MLS All-Star team as a way to grow their brand but they are also using them for something more: preparing for the upcoming Serie A campaign.
Roma are set to start their new season in little under a month and are in need of a challenge to see what needs work ahead of their opener against Livorno on Aug. 24, and Wednesday’s match against an MLS squad littered with talent should provide them with just what they’re looking for.
“We’re growing, we’re growing,” said defender Nicolas Burdisso. “We could say we’re at five or six points (out of 10 in terms of where we stand). We started at zero three weeks ago and now we’re halfway to our top form in our preseason and tomorrow will be a good way to measure where we stand.”