In what was less than a competitive match, AS Roma has defeated the MLS All-Stars by a score of 3-1. This was a continuation of a growing tradition in which Major League Soccer throws their All-Stars into the fire against a top European squad.
Unfortunately, it was also another setback for the MLS.
Major League Soccer put forth a cast of stars, albeit one without significant names either on or returning from international leave. With the opportunity to shine against a Serie A squad, players such as Thierry Henry and Marco Di Vaio were expected to make their mark.
It simply wasn't to be, as Alessandro Florenzi led AS Roma to the win.
Florenzi finished with one goal and an assist.
It wasn't pretty for the MLS, as Kevin Strootman scored in the fourth minute to give Roma an early 1-0 lead. Even as they kept the opposition quiet for the remainder of the first half, Roma struck with two quick goals in the second.
The MLS All-Stars, meanwhile, didn't score until Omar Gonzalez scored off of an assist from Camilo Sanvezzo during injury time.
This marks yet another disappointing scoring output from the MLS against a European foe. While this truly is nothing more than a glorified exhibition game, a victory would have been big.
Instead, MLS remains in search of legitimacy.
Searching for Legitimacy
MLS has its fair share of fans, specifically in hotbed locations scattered throughout the country. With an expansion to Canada, it's become clear that there are brighter days on the horizon for an international power looking to find a home in North America.
Losses like this don't do much good for their chances of developing their reputation in a positive manner.
The most common belief about the MLS is that they are a second-tier league, at best, that employs players that aren't good enough to play in elite divisions. While some players may prove that belief to be false, seeing your All-Stars lose to a club from Italy isn't the best way to prove your legitimacy.
Instead, they pander to the critics.
From 2003 to 2008, the MLS actually fared well against the opposition, defeating five clubs from outside the U.S.. Since then, they're 1-3-1, losing by multiple goals in three of the past four seasons.
Either the MLS is getting worse or the opposing teams are taking this game more seriously—we better hope it's the latter.
The Silver Lining
There's no question that the MLS wants to win these games, proving that they belong in some capacity in world football's elite. While this may be a glorified exhibition game, for Major League Soccer, it's a chance to pit their best against a strong international squad.
While the result may have been disappointing, there was another number that may be more important than the loss:
For a league that is desperately pursuing an increase in domestic interest in soccer, that's a very promising sign.
It's no secret that soccer is the least popular "major" sport in the U.S., both in the collegiate and professional ranks. As the NBA, NFL and NHL continue to see an increased interest, and the MLB continues their rapid recovery from controversy, the MLS hasn't been as lucky.
Tonight, they showed that soccer can still turn heads in the U.S.
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