|AS Roma & Orlando City Kick-Off|
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Orlando City Soccer Club faced off against three-time Serie A Champions AS Roma in front of a sell-out crowd at Rollins College today in what everyone hopes will become an annual friendly. And while the Italian Super Club showed why they are a force to be reckoned with in Europe, everyone in attendance felt the match was an awesomely unique experience, one which will be go down in the rich history of soccer in "The City Beautiful".
After a successful summer tour of North America last summer which saw them play Liverpool and other big clubs, AS Roma was in Orlando for the last several days for winter training sessions as ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex as part of a six-year deal with the facility. The match with Orlando City came about from the tireless efforts of both clubs front offices and for the common goal of supporting youth soccer initiatives. Both teams absorbed their own costs, the facility at Rollins was donated, and all proceeds from the match went to the Orlando City Soccer Foundation. Between ticket sales and donations collected at the match, over $10,000 was raised to help programs such as the Little Free Libraries and indestructible soccer ball in Parramore.
With the stands packed and over a thousand fans riding the fences surrounding the pitch the teams took the field with AS Roma in their traditional red and gold-trimmed kits and Orlando City sporting their new white and purple uniforms the match was underway.
It didn't take long for the Italians to get on the board with Erik Manuel Lamela scoring in the 2nd and 13th minutes and just like that Orlando City was down 2-0 and looking a bit overwhelmed.
The Lions did well to settle in for the next twenty minutes until Miralem Pjanic lifted one into the back of the net in the 31st minute followed by Mattia Destro just before the halftime whistle and any hopes that the match would be close went out the window.
Orlando City had their chances in the second half with several drives inside the 18-yard box that were scooped up or deflected by the keeper. Several corner kicks for the Lions missed their mark with the headers spraying wide or Roma getting the clearance.
With the scoreline as it was, both teams opted to bring on several substitutions for the remainder of the match slowing the pace just a little. Alessandro Florienzi fired a cannon from just outside the 18-yard box that shot into the back of the net in the 66th minute to push the score to 5-0 where it would remain.
Both teams stuck around for just a little bit after the match to sign autographs and do press then AS Roma was on their tour bus and off to the airport for their long flight back to Italy.
In what was surely the biggest opponent Orlando City has ever faced they stood tall and played well as a team and showed AS Roma that we play football here too.
A special shout out to our man at the match, "The Gambler", for taking all of the great pictures for this article. Check out these extra pictures below and click on any of them to enlarge.