AS Roma officials promise their trip to Toronto will be no casual kickabout.
Toronto FC hosts the three-time Italian league champions in a friendly Aug. 7 at BMO Field, a game that Roma CEO Italo Zanzi said falls within a key part of their preseason.
“This is a major part of preparation for the season, this is not a vacation,” Zanzi said at a news conference Wednesday in Toronto’s Little Italy. “It’s a real competitive endeavour and something that also ties into our global brand building. Our first team will be on our tour, our first team will be playing, it is preseason so like any other franchise, you’re going to be resting players, trying out players, but we’re going to have our first team all throughout our tour.”
The storied Italian franchise that was founded in 1927 will travel to Toronto after playing the MLS all-star game on July 31 in Kansas City. The Italians will play another North American game, which is yet to be announced.
So Roma fans can expect to see Italian stars Francesco Totti — who has been at the club for over 20 years — and Daniele de Rossi, although de Rossi has been linked to Chelsea in a possible summer move.
“This is going to be a real match for us, we are going to be in the midst of intense preparation for next season,” Zanzi said reiterated. “We have a new coach (Rudi Garcia), we have players who are ready to go, so we are going to take this match very seriously.
“We intend to play our first team, from a competitive standpoint we want to win, obviously we’re going to be evaluating players, but overall this isn’t a situation where we’re bringing anything but our very best.”
For Toronto FC, the friendly is sandwiched between two MLS regular-season games — Aug. 4 at New England and Aug. 10 versus the visiting Seattle Sounders.
TFC president and GM Kevin Payne insisted the timing isn’t a problem — Toronto would run hard in training on that Wednesday regardless.
He said Toronto will also field its starters.
“I don’t think our first team or Roma’s first team is going to be playing 90 minutes, but we’ll see the first teams on the field against one another,” he said.
Zanzi and Payne said the fit is ideal in a city that boasts half a million Italians.
“Toronto, as a very cosmopolitan city, boasts one of the largest Italian populations in the world outside of Italy,” Payne said. “And we expect that unfortunately for us perhaps, we may not be the home team at this game. We’ll see about that, but there will surely be some people cheering for AS Roma.”
Toronto has hosted numerous European clubs in the past, including Liverpool, Aston Villa, Real Madrid and Bolton.