This weekend Chicago will feature some serious international soccer talent with two big friendlies taking place. No doubt Fire and Aston Villa fans already are anticipating the friendly taking place tomorrow night at Toyota Park. We did a questions exchange previewing the match tomorrow night. However, on Sunday at Wrigley Field, international clubs AS Roma and Zaglebie Luben will face off in the first soccer match at Wrigley Field since 1984. What can be better than being at Wrigley AND watching soccer? Even if you are not familiar with either team, it is a unique opportunity that should be taken advantage of.
We here at Hot Time In Old Town are here to help. I got in touch with Chris over at SB Nation's AS Roma blog, Chiesa Di Totti. Of the two clubs, most people are probably more familiar with AS Roma. Additionally, USMNT midfield maestro Michael Bradley just joined the club and will hopefully feature for them in the game on Sunday. One of the questions in the exchange will also address Bradley's arrival.
Since the Fire are not playing in this friendly I did not answer any questions for Chiesa Di Totti. Their answers to our questions are below (the rest of the questions will be after the break). The roster announced for AS Roma will appear at the end of the exchange as well. Hopefully you will enjoy this brief little insight into the world of AS Roma soccer. And don't forget to show up and cheer on your Men in Red tomorrow night vs. Aston Villa.
Hot Time In Old Town Asks Chiesa Di Totti
1. Where do you think Francesco Totti will be positioned? Do you see him playing out on the wing or in the middle? (via Ben Burton)
Bench? Can I say that with suffering a bolt from the heavens? The system for Zeman is so fluid, so fast, there aren't exactly gaping spots into which one can just plunk an octogenarian with fossilized knees. The 4-3-3 calls for Osvaldo/Purchase TBD at the top, while the wing, ideally, is for those who can move quickly, often and for ninety minutes plus. One for the children. Right now, likely the wing, but where he begins on the team sheet isn't so important as where he'll inevitably end up in the attack: center of midfield, pushing near the hole with eyes peering - the man can still thread a pass.
But he's no longer a guaranteed start, simply based on age. This goes doubly with Zeman's weekly triathlons.
2. Can the club compete with the Italian heavyweights such as Juventus and the Milan clubs? Is there a fear that rivals Lazio could continue to pass the club? (via James Coston)
A. No Comment
B. No Comment
In all seriousness, the team will have to click from the start to make any sort of title challenge, while hovering around the Champions League spot is going to be the goal. What Zeman did with Pescara in Serie B was extraordinary, but those lining up in the back for Serie A teams are born with defensive DNA - they know how to effectively nullify a kamikaze onslaught. The two leagues are incomparable in this respect and Roma's going to ship volumes of goals as well as score them. The real concern is Napoli should be far better in the league this year, adding to the foes above, if they lost Lavezzi and Udinese making it three Champions League entrances on the trot will confirm this world does not actually exist, but is a fragment of Dali's cracked mirror.
Lazio's a coin flip every single year. With complete objectivity, rendering long-term viable predictions for them is a task in the impossible. (The two teams often yo-yo. I'd venture it's to be more of the same.)
3. What is the general fan sentiment over Zděnek Zeman, especially since he's managed the team before? Would a fresh face be preferable? (via Dili Yang)
In Rome - the half that matters, anyway - he is a god somewhere below Totti and De Rossi, but above that dude with the Hat, because he is first and foremost a Roma fan. The man is beloved and were he to have the coaching ability of last week's nacho cheese, he would've been ushered into the city on the backs of gladiators anyway. The fact he can coach and sends nine into the box with every attack as though the final scene of a Michael Bay flick is simply icing on the cake. The brutally opinionated personality and chain-huffing Marlboros help endear him as well, because everyone loves a badass.
And slyly, this is an excellent move for the business side of matters: the goals shall flow on both sides, and Roma will become a neutral's delight rather shortly. Add this to his popularity among the tifosi, and Zeman ticks a whole lot of boxes on the non-football side of things.
4. What's the situation with Marco Borriello? 9 teams in 12 years. Loaned to Roma, bought by Roma, then immediately loaned out and put up for transfer. Is it attitude, talent, coincidence, or a mix of all three? (via Dili Yang)
The original deal with Milan was technically a loan, but a mandatory buyout clause, so he was kinda-sorta bought right away - the payments were simply deferred because the club was in the process of being sold (Berlusconi had a wink-wink, nudge-nudge kinship with the old owners). Had the buyout clause not been obligatory, he would not have been bought, as he is the old school prima punta (true forward) with mounds of technique, work rate and strength, but not quite as adaptable to some more fluid, modern systems, such as the one the new Roma has been trying to implement. He actually carried the team much of his first season in Rome, but either defenders began figuring out how to push him to the wing, or he was placed/drifted there, and lost his effectiveness. In the right system, he'll score 15 or so.
Marco's also one who'll likely be MLS-side eventually, while hitting the pages of all the gossip mags for his arm candy- Montreal, judging by the current trajectory of over-the-hill Italians, though the Gucci at 900 N. Michigan might work too.
5. It seems to be exciting times at AS Roma as US International Midfielder Michael Bradley just joined the club. What do you think he will bring to the club that it is currently lacking? Also, striker Fabio Borini just left the club for Liverpool. What impact will this have on the club and are there any other players that you expect can help fill his role that are currently on the team? (via Ryan Sealock/James Coston)
Genuinely, I know nothing about Bradley and I won't pretend to. However, the person I respect most when it comes to assessing all things Roma said, in 140 characters or less, "Michael Bradley is one of the smartest signings so far in serie A. Or anywhere, I guess. Perfect for both Zeman's Roma and Pallotta's Roma." I'll silently nod and defer to him. (There was always going to be an American for branding purposes, too. I'm rather surprised it took a year.)
To approach the larger picture, the team is very undecided at midfield currently - for one with its aspirations, at least. They have Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic as the guaranteed two of the guaranteed three, with the eternally running Simone Perrotta, though increasing in age, an excellent piece for the Zeman 4-3-3, considering his ability to bomb anywhere and everywhere for ninety minutes. Plus there's the immense talent (and immensity) of Panagiotis Tachtsidis. And there stands the possibility that Roma's prized jewel, Erik Lamela, will drop down there as well. Or Totti, or Mr. Everyman, Rodrigo Taddei, or....that third spot is, right now, very curious, which is good for competition, though perhaps too much will be bad without European football to appease the egos.
As for Borini, if rumors hold - and by ‘rumors' I mean, "The explicit words of every director involved in the transaction" - Fabio is likely being replaced, for a little more change, with Mattia Destro. I love Borini. Destro is better.
But the real story is quietly, Bojan was the star of Roma for the final 2-3 months of the season and seemingly out of nowhere began showing all that was once predicted of his colossal talent. He's going to be given all of the time and space to become that superstar.
AS Roma Roster: Courtesy of official AS Roma Website
Bojan, Bradley, Burdisso, Castan, Dodò, Florenzi, Heinze, J. Angel, Lamela, Lobont, Lopez, Lucca, Marquinho, Osvaldo, Pjanic, Romagnoli, Rosi, Stekelenburg, Svedkauskas, Tachtsidis, Taddei, Totti, Verre