Walking into Red Bull Arena, I was surprised to see how many random soccer jerseys were being worn. I’d come to watch Tottenham Hotspur play AS Roma after all, but if you’d told someone with no knowledge of the fixture to come, they’d have had a hard time telling you exactly who was playing whom. Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United — I even saw an RSL kit — were just a few of the clubs whose colors were on display as I made my way from the parking lot to the press entrance.
Unlike Barcelona vs Juventus — which I’d covered just a few days earlier at MetLife Stadium — this match had a much more casual feel to it, despite both contests being billed as friendlies. Outside of the Arena, Tottenham had set up a tailgate equipped with a mini turf field, the popular beanbag tossing game Cornhole, a merchandise stand and similar offerings. Celebrity and proud Spurs fan Adam Richman was present meeting fans.
AS Roma, on the other hand, were without a team kiosk or much of any real presence outside of the Arena before the game. It almost felt like the Serie A club were here for the match and the match alone. Any major advertisement for the club would come thanks to the quality (or lack thereof) of the team out on the field. Perhaps that’s a statement in and of itself: We’re here to perform and we’re focused on doing so.
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco, who only joined the Roma outfit last month, seemed keen to make the most of this opportunity to assess his team. Engaging in a competitive, exciting match with last season’s Premier League runners-up provided him with a good test of his side’s abilities while also exposing their deficiencies.
Roma were ahead by a goal going into the halftime break, and looked in control of any and all Spurs efforts to claw their way back into the match. Mass substitutions after halftime, as are typical in any friendly, killed the momentum for both sides and completely changed the dynamic of the game making for a very exciting second half for neutrals.
A five goal affair (in front of a crowd of 26,192) that goes down to the wire is exactly the sort of advertisement for the International Champions Cup that Relevent Sports would want. But that didn’t seem to matter much to Di Francesco, who felt there were areas in which his team could have done better.