Going to an All-Star competition feels like observing a political convention. Both events are preceded with months, weeks, hours and minutes of hype, bombast and anticipation for an event whose outcome, if not known beforehand, is fairly predictable.
Fireworks and acrobatics were the show for a record crowd of 21,175 at Sporting Park on Wednesday night to watch Italian squad Roma dismantle the Major League Soccer All-Stars by a score of 3-1.
Kansas City was up for this party, given that it was the city's second major league All-Star Game in as many years. Kansas City also knows how to get out of work early for a midweek game; an hour before kickoff, Interstate 70 was nearly empty. People arriving to the stadium around that time were consigned to parking well past the Kansas Speedway; Sporting Park was invisible from that parking lot.
Unlike Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, Wednesday's match for practical purposes was a meaningless affair with no implications on postseason play. Still, the vibe at Sporting Park took on a feeling of significance. A pair of television helicopters circled the stadium before and during the match, a somewhat elaborate acrobatic display preceded the kickoff, and a professional fireworks display at halftime left the field almost invisible for a short while from all the gunpowder smoke.
This was no Super Bowl, but there was no shortage of noise, lights and flair. All to serve as a nice distraction for what turned out to be a fairly humdrum game. Roma, one of the better club teams in Italy's top soccer league, outclassed the MLS team early and often.
Only four minutes into the game, Roma's Kevin Strootman snaked through the MLS defense for an easy goal. Another Roma ball went into the net just minutes later, only to be disallowed by an offsides call.
The MLS team, which had three Sporting Kansas City players (Aurelien Colin, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler), rarely produced much in the way of scoring opportunities.
Roma went up 3-0 fairly easily before L.A. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez scored in the dying minutes of the game.
The only bad news for the hometown crowd was Zusi's early departure from the game after picking up an injury that may leave him out of Saturday's tilt against the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park.