TSG’s Serie A expert Eric Giardini takes in his beloved AS Roma in Beantown
Way back in March when it was announced that Roma and Liverpool were playing a friendly in Boston at iconic Fenway Park I knew there was no way I was going to miss it. Absolutely no way. Tickets were purchased as soon as they went on sale for Wednesday’s match and airfare from DC to Boston shortly followed.
“Great,” I thought. “It’s a 6:30p match so I can take a half day at work, fly to Boston, then catch a 6:00a flight back the next morning and make it back to the office to begin the work day.”
Unfortunately, this plan had its obvious flaws–which I felt the following day–and to make matters worse I was juggling deadlines at work and planning a cross-country move to occur only two weeks later. Do I have your sympathy? Needless to say, the timing wasn’t ideal but there was no way I was missing this match.
I arrived in Boston about 4 hours before the match started and checked into my hotel, grabbed a quick cup of coffee, and made my way down to Fenway.
It was a gorgeous day in Boston.
Thankfully the weather that day was sunny and in the low 80s – perfect for watching soccer. Based on the number of Liverpool shirts I saw while making my way to the stadium I had a feeling that I, in my Totti shirt, was going to be part of the minority crowd at the game.
It wasn’t until I got to the corner of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street outside of Fenway did I realize just how many Liverpool supporters were going to be there. Greeting visitors outside of Fenway as you made your way down Yawkey Way to the Red Sox Team Store and vendors selling commemorative items for the “Boston Derby” or “Football at Fenway”, there was a replica of the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” archway where scores of supporters were getting their picture taken in front of. There was also the “Warrior Zone” (sponsored by Warrior, the new uniform maker for Liverpool) which I didn’t venture to so I couldn’t tell you what was there. The bars on Yawkey Way and Landsdowne Street all had signs welcoming Liverpool fans. (To be honest, none of this was surprising given the ownership between the Red Sox and Liverpool.)
After walking past all of this, I managed to find a spot where I could grab a seat at the bar and talk to both Liverpool and Roma fans. I even talked to a couple of guys who had no rooting interest in the game but realized that having a soccer game at Fenway was “a pretty cool thing that doesn’t happen every day” and was coming purely for the show.
At about 5:45p it was time to make my way to Fenway to find our seats. At some point while I was at the bar, the Romanisiti came out in full force (probably from the North End) and were making their voices heard by the stadium. From what I saw, it was all very cordial between both sets of supporters and I was even asked by a group of Liverpool fans to take their picture, which I happily did.
I made it to my seat in time to catch the Liverpool supporters belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” but, curiously, Roma supporters were not afforded the opportunity to sing “Roma, Roma, Roma” before the match. My seats were in the “Neutral Section” as my girlfriend, who occasionally watches Roma games on television with me Sunday mornings, didn’t want to be among the diehards. In hindsight, we probably should have sat in the supporters section. Don’t get me wrong, the view was great (except for one of Fenway’s infamous poles being in the way) just the atmosphere was dead. After listening to the conversations around me, it appears the section I was in was full of Red Sox season ticket holders who got tickets as part of their package. Fair play to them for coming out, but it was just missing something. I will say this though, the actual playing surface looked better than when Roma beat Zaglebie Lubin at Wrigley Field in Chicago last Sunday.
The starting lineups were introduced and, perhaps not entirely surprising, Michael Bradley received one of the largest ovations, but more on that in a bit.
I was very excited to see Francesco Totti start the match as Zeman decided to play a pretty close to full strength starting 11 while his counterpart Brendan Rodgers fielded a side comprised mostly of youngsters or veteran players looking for a spark (Aquilani and Joe Cole in particular). The first half of the game was fairly wide open with some good end-to-end action, but I’m not looking to delve too far into a recap because there’s a fairly high chance that you saw the match and can make your own observations.
Aside from seeing Totti in person, easily the biggest highlight of the night was seeing Michael Bradley score his first goal for Roma in the second half. As I alluded to in an earlier piece, don’t be surprised to see Bradley score quite a few goals in this system as he will be a regular in the box when Roma attacks. Almost immediately after the goal the crowd, both Liverpool and Roma fans, began chanting “U-S-A.” It was a little surreal and got me thinking about something that we have been discussing amongst ourselves at TSG: What is it recently about Michael Bradley that has made him a “sexy” American player? It seems that recently, especially now after his transfer to Roma, American fans are now swooning over MB where they weren’t 6-12 months ago. Why is this?
I’ll admit that 12-18 months ago I wasn’t the biggest Michael Bradley supporter but he has won me over, and this was long before his move to Roma. I think it changed once his father was relieved of his USMNT managing duties and Bradley seemed to become a better player over this time frame – whether the two are related, I don’t know.
His newfound appeal seems to be a product of his great run of form over the past year and the fact that he is going to a big club that matters. I understand that Clint Dempsey is doing great things at Fulham, but at the end of the day, it’s still Fulham (with all due respect). This is also an instance of a player going to a major club in the peak of his career and should be a major contributor, unlike Onyewu’s time at the San Siro. This is something that American soccer fans should be excited about and I think they are latching onto Bradley, even more than I was expecting, and are following his journey in Rome.
But anyways, back to the match. After Roma’s second goal, the Roma fans became a bit more confident in how the match was going to end and the chants grew louder. However, that all changed when Charlie Adam brought the game back into doubt without 10 minutes left when his goal brought the score to 2-1. This caused me to experience something that I have done so many times before – the nervousness in waiting for the final whistle – in person. Liverpool’s “kids” (for a lack of a better word) really took the match to Roma at the end and I was sure there would be an equalizer.
Fortunately, Roma held on for a 2-1 and I left Fenway happy. After a celebratory stop at a bar next to my hotel, it was off to bed to catch a few hours of sleep before leaving first thing in the morning back to DC. Was I utterly exhausted on Thursday? You bet I was. Do I regret any bit of it? Not at all and I’m ready to do it all again. Well, I have one regret. I wish I had taken more pictures.