The MLS All-Stars take on Italian club AS Roma in the 2013 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday at Sporting Park in Kansas City, hoping to notch their second consecutive victory over international competition.
The MLS All-Stars defeated English club Chelsea last year, 3-2, with United States forward Eddie Johnson being the hero. That was after the All-Stars lost back-to-back contests against Manchester United.
There will be plenty of talent on the pitch on Wednesday, from Landon Donovan to Francesco Totti. Here's a look at the keys to victory for each team.
All-Star head coach Peter Vermes said before the clash on Wednesday, via Franco Panizo of Soccer by Ives:
The game plan 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. 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 game plan because this is our first training together as a team.
The All-Stars have the talent to defeat Roma on Wednesday, but they can't get ahead of themselves on the pitch. All it takes is a couple of mistakes or some miscommunication on the back end for the tide to turn.
Don't forget Roma comes equipped with United States midfielder Michael Bradley, Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi. Totti posted 12 goals and 12 assists in 34 matches (33 starts) in Serie A last season. De Rossi is a complete, versatile player who won Italian Footballer of the Year in 2009. Roma may be the underdog, but that doesn't mean the club doesn't have a chance of winning at Sporting Park.
Keep It Simple
Given the lack of experience the MLS players have together, complicating things in terms of the attack or defense may only cause problems.
The team has several talented scorers in Landon Donovan, Vancouver's Camilo Sanvezzo and Chicago's Mike Magee. Montreal's Marco Di Vaio and Philadelphia's Jack McInerney will also be on the pitch. Sanvezzo and Magee lead MLS this season with 13 goals. Di Vaio and McInerney have posted 11 goals and 10 goals, respectively.
If the All-Stars can just play simple football, they should be able to pull off a victory, as you would think at least one of these men would find a way to make a difference with his touch.
Press the Action
Roma needs to be the aggressor from the start while still being safe on the back end on Wednesday.
The All-Stars have an excellent back line, with Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Omar Gonzalez, Tony Beltran and Corey Ashe all available for the clash. Simply playing safe, conservative football against this group likely won't be enough for Roma to push through into the net.
Roma may benefit from being a bit tricky in this match. After all, the club does have the experience working together to do a bit more with its strategy on the attacking end.
Keep It Complicated
Speaking of experience working together, one advantage Roma does have over the All-Stars is that many of its players have been able to develop chemistry throughout the years.
Chemistry can have a way of overcoming a deficit in overall talent, especially when players are telepathically sending messages to one another and keeping the opposing team on its toes.
While the All-Stars may need to be a bit more conservative to avoid making too many mistakes, Roma players have the luxury of employing a game plan they know very well.