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MLS All-Stars vs. AS Roma: Players with Most to Gain in Exhibition

PORTLAND, OR - JULY 09:  Chris Wondolowski #19 of the United States against Belize during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup on July 9, 2013 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2013

You may be thinking that an exhibition game like the MLS All-Stars facing Roma doesn't really mean a thing, that there aren't any players with anything to gain or lose in this showcase for the fans. 

You'd be right in assuming there wasn't much to lose. But rest assured, for at least three players there is much to be gained. 

From one player trying to ensure a regular spot on his club team to two others hoping to accumulate excellent performances to add to a World Cup resume, there will be something on the line for a few participants. 

Let's break down each one.

 

Michael Bradley, Roma

Roma is not short on talented midfielders, highlighted by players like Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman. So yes, Michael Bradley is going to have to constantly prove his worth, and a good place to start would be a high-profile exhibition against the MLS All-Stars. 

While Bradley's place on the USMNT is pretty secure at this point, the last thing he'll want is to head into next summer out of form after a season of spotty appearances for Roma. Bradley is the keystone of the United States and must be in top form for the Americans to make any noise in Brazil.

Roma is a team in transition. There's a new coach in Rudi Garcia, and more transfers and changes could yet come for the squad. Bradley must prove this summer that he is a man who deserves to remain in the mix for consistent starts. 

 

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

You would think that Wondolowski would be one of three pure forwards taken to Brazil for the United States along with starter Jozy Altidore and the versatile Eddie Johnson. He scored five goals in five appearances for the Americans in this year's Gold Cup and looked classy doing so. 

But his spot is far from guaranteed, and his disappointing play in the MLS thus far this season—just five goals and two assists in 17 starts—won't help his case if he can't reverse his fortunes domestically. 

Perhaps a good showing against Roma could get him back on track. As the top MLS vote-getter for this game, he should get the start and thus plenty of minutes to prove his worth. Every game now counts for Wondo, especially a high-profile affair such as this. 

 

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake

Kyle Beckerman appeared in five of the six Gold Cup matches for the United States and played quite well, providing two assists and winning the ball back with regularity for the United States. He may not be Michael Bradley, but he's not a bad deputy in central midfield. 

This will be a big year with him, with a slot on the USMNT on the line. He must perform in every high-profile match he appears in, and the match with Roma will certainly be that. 

At the Gold Cup, Landon Donovan guaranteed his return to a prominent role for the Americans, while players like Johnson, Wondo and Beckerman made their cases. Every chance he gets, Beckerman must prove his worth. 

Wednesday night would be a good place to start.

 

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