The MLS All-Star Game is supposed to be used as a measuring stick for America's top domestic league, gauging how its best does against some of the world's best.
Last season, the All-Stars unleashed a surprising 3-2 victory over a Chelsea club in obvious preseason form. Wednesday night, Serie A giants Roma took the game seriously and brought their A-game in a 3-1 win against the star-studded MLS squad, who failed to measure up to their opponents in any of the 90 minutes played.
The tone was set early in the match by the Italian side, as they exploited the high back line set by the Sporting Kansas City center-back pairing of Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler. As a beautiful run of play was started by Roma 'keeper Morgan De Sanctis, Besler and Collin began to creep up for an offsides trap.
However, that plan backfired as one of Roma's new signings, Kevin Strootman, surged through and into the penalty area. Strootman's shot on goal deflected off Collin's leg and into the back of the net just four minutes into the match.
Strootman deflated all of the positive energy that was flowing throughout Sporting Park in the host town of Kansas City, Kan., who put on a great show in the build-up to the game all week. That, however, could not be reflected by the disorganized MLS side, which failed to record a shot on goal for the first 64 minutes of the match.
By the time that first shot on goal was taken from 40 yards out by Vancouver's Camilo Sanvezzo, Roma had gone ahead by two goals.
In the 47th minute, it was Strootman who started the build-up to the game's second goal. As the Dutch star started the run of play on the left side of the pitch, Houston Dynamo full-back Corey Ashe drifted toward the center of the pitch.
Alessandro Florenzi then sprinted behind Ashe and found himself in position to beat Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando for the second goal of the night.
Just minutes after the MLS All-Stars began to show signs of promise with former teammates and halftime substitutes Landon Donovan and Mike Magee beginning to link up in the attack, Roma struck the final dagger into the coffin of the All-Stars.
In the 68th minute, Junior Tallo became the game's third goalscorer, and he had Strootman and U.S. international Michael Bradley to thank in becoming just the third African player to score in the MLS All-Star Game.
L.A. Galaxy center-back Omar Gonzalez pulled one back for MLS with a header in stoppage time to carry the game to its final 3-1 score. The level of disappointment felt by the league and its fans, however, will be easily overshadowed by the bold announcement made at halftime by league commissioner Don Garber.
Garber stated that by the end of this current decade, MLS will expand to 24 clubs, which means four, yes four, new expansion franchises will be added to the league by the 2020 season.
To close out the three-day celebration of the league's development and the transformed soccer town of Kansas City, it was only fitting that an announcement about league expansion deflected attention away from an disappointing showing on the pitch by the MLS All-Stars against a Roma side that thoroughly outclassed them.
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