Roma eases to win over Toronto FC in friendly
Totti sees limited action
AS Roma defeated Toronto FC 4-1 but Doneil Henry may have been the big winner on the night.
The 20-year-old defender from Brampton, Ont., emerged from Wednesday's soccer friendly with Roma captain Francesco Totti's jersey.
Totti didn't come off the bench until the 71st minute. By then Henry had his strategy in place.
"I was just watching the clock — 85th minute came and I said 'Hey Totti, can I get your jersey?"' he explained later. "He was really nice, a really humble guy."
Henry wasn't even born when Totti made his Serie A debut for Roma in March 1993. Now 36, Totti stands second on the Italian league's all-time scoring list with 227 goals. That's six more than Toronto FC, now in its seventh year, has collected as a franchise in league play (221).
The game was essentially over by the time Totti made it on the field at 3-1.
Bosnia and Herzegovina international Miralem Pjanic scored twice, Alessandro Florenzi added a goal and an assist and Marco Boriello also scored for Roma, which scored four unanswered goals after going down 1-0. You could argue the visitors scored five since the Toronto goal came on a 15th-minute own goal by Roma captain Nicolas Burdisso.
Both goals by Pjanic, a first-half substitute, were highlight-reel material.
He bent in a beautiful free kick in the 67th minute to make it 3-1 and then completed the scoring in the 87th minute, stripping the ball off a Toronto player. He then deked third-string goalie Quillan Roberts and cheekily backheeled the ball into the goal.
Florenzi, a 22-year-old midfielder, also had a goal and assist in Roma's 3-1 win over the MLS all-stars last week, earning MVP honours.
While Toronto had its moments, Roma had a clear edge in class. Toronto, which trailed 2-1 after 45 minutes, emptied its bench in the second half and the rout was on.
Roma outshot Toronto 20-6 (9-1 in shots on target). And the Italians were flying as the game ended, laying waste to Toronto's second-stringers.
Roma's stars — Totti, Daniele De Rossi and newcomer Kevin Strootman — came late to the party or, in De Rossi's case, watched.
After the match, Roma coach Rudi Garcia was diplomatic about the North American tour.
"It's a good thing to be here, sure," said the stylish Frenchman. "Because our president is American."
Then he lost the diplomatic plot slightly.
"Next Saturday we have a big match against Chelsea [in Washington, D.C.]," said Garcia. "But it's a good preparation today for this match."
Asked if he had held players back for the Chelsea game, Garcia smiled.
"If you are in Washington next Saturday you will see," he replied.
Totti was part of the storyline all night despite his limited action.
Fans wearing Totti's No. 10 shirts crowded around the player tunnel prior to the game in a bid to get a glimpse of the King of Rome.
There was a huge cheer in the 58th minute as Totti finally got off the bench and trotted down to the north end of the field to warm up. The Roma captain came on to an even bigger ovation from the BMO Field crowd of 18,274.
Totti hardly broke a sweat, showing a few nice touches as he continued his pre-season preparations.
Strootman, the newly signed Dutch midfielder who cost Roma a reported C$25 million, was brought on in the 76th minute.
De Rossi, the Italian international midfielder who missed training earlier, did not see action because of a minor calf injury.
Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen skipped the evening totally. He was said to be "overseas" working on possible player moves ahead of Thursday's closing of the transfer window.
Wednesday's friendly offered Toronto a chance to rub shoulders with a Series A side. But it also cut into preparations for Saturday's league match against the Seattle Sounders.
Toronto (4-10-8) has taken seven points in its last three MLS games, tying the New York Red Bulls and defeating the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution.
Goalkeeper Joe Bendik, defender Doneil Henry and striker Jeremy Brockie did not start, but other than that it was a strong TFC side sent out against the Italian tourists.
Backup goalie Stefan Frei got a rare taste of action, while new Swiss fullback Jonas Elmer and Spanish winger Alvaro Rey both got their first starts as Toronto dressed a total of 24 players.
Rey's hard work made the opening goal, chasing down a ball at the byline that Brazilian defender Dodo thought was going to go out. But Rey got to it first and raked a cross in front of goal, where it hit Burdisso's head and flashed into the net in the 15th minute.
Florenzi tied it up in the 25th minute with a nifty flick from in-close after Brazilian fullback Maicon powered his way down the right flank, treating several Toronto players like pylons. Toronto defender Steven Caldwell gambled on his positioning and lost on the play.
Toronto's defence was suspect again in the 33rd minute, allowing Roma to go ahead on a Boriello header as the Roma forward easily beat Gale Agbossoumonde to Florenzi's delightful cross off a short corner.
Toronto brought on eight substitutes to open the second half, leaving only Frei, Agbossoumonde and first-half substitute Darel Russell.
Toronto punctuated the fact that it was a friendly by introducing Roberts in the 76th minute.
Assistant coach Fran O'Leary called it "a good workout" ahead of Saturday's league match.
Ray left the game in the first half with what O'Leary called a "wee bruise."
The Italians are in pre-season mode, with their Serie A campaign opening Aug. 25 on the road against Livorno. Roma, which has won the Italian league title three times and the Italian Cup on nine occasions, finished sixth last season with an 18-12-8 record.
Henry left with Totti's shirt and a new appreciation of the Italian side.
"When they break with the ball, how quickly they can move and how quick the ball moves is unbelievable," he said.