KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Serie A club AS Roma will be taking on the best that Major League Soccer has to offer in the league’s annual All-Star Game tonight at Sporting Park.
Roma’s side will include longstanding captain Francesco Totti and American midfielder Michael Bradley, who got his start in professional soccer as an 18-year-old for what would become the New York Red Bulls.
“For me and my teammates, for Roma, it’s the first time we’ve played a match against a team like MLS,” Totti said through a translator. “We’re happy we’ve been invited for this match, and of course, very happy to see Michael play against some of his good friends.”
It will clearly be a special night for the American, the son of former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley.
“For me, I grew up with the MLS. I was nine years old when the league began,” Bradley said this week, “so for me to have an opportunity to come back to my home country and play against the MLS All-Star team, it’s going to be a great night.”
Totti will be facing some familiar faces, too.
One of the players on the MLS squad is Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal star who helped lead France to the World Cup final in 2006. Henry’s team finally ran into the Azzurri, of Totti, and lost 5-3 in a dramatic penalty shootout.
That was payback time from 2000, when Henry’s France beat Totti’s Italy 2-1 in the final of the European Championship.
“When you think about Roma, you think about Francesco Totti,” Henry said. “I have maximum respect for him to stay with the same team throughout his career, the team he supported as a boy. We could be here and talk about Francesco Totti all day.”
The current format of the All-Star Game, featuring an international opponent, was adopted more than a decade ago. Last year, the MLS side beat Premier League club Chelsea.