AS Roma set for soccer match at Wrigley

AS Roma set for soccer match at Wrigley

AS Roma set for soccer match at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- United States National Team soccer player and new AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley is familiar with Chicago. Wrigley Field is another story.

Bradley, who lived around the Windy City as a teenager while his father coached the Chicago Fire, had never been to the stadium. Sunday, he'll get to play at Wrigley Field in the international "Friendly at the Confines" match between Italy's AS Roma and Poland's Zaglebie Lubin at 2:30 p.m. CT.

"This is special for me," Bradley said. "Even if you took the Chicago and Wrigley Field part out of it, to be able to step on the field with Roma is something extremely special to begin with.

"You throw in the fact that we're playing here in Chicago at Wrigley Field. This is actually my first time here. Lived here for four, five years, never made it to the stadium. It should be a great afternoon for everybody."

Bradley signed a four-year deal with Roma on Sunday.

"This is the biggest opportunity of my career," Bradley said. "To come to a club like Roma with the passion, the history, the tradition of the club, it doesn't get any better than this. I'm going to give everything I have to show everybody -- the fans, the players, the coaches -- that I'm a guy who can help the team."

The match is the first in Roma's U.S. Tour, which will also feature stops in Boston and New York. Wrigley Field hasn't hosted a soccer match since 1984, when the Chicago Sting played the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Roma forward Francesco Totti said stepping foot on American soil was a culture shock.

"It's a different culture, a different lifestyle that you can see as soon as you set foot in the country," Totti said through a translator. "People are different. Their attitude is different. It's a positive experience."

He also said with new American ownership of Roma, he's entertained the idea of spending the tail end of his playing career in America.

Chief executive officer Mark Pannes said his long-term vision is turning Roma into the most popular club for American soccer fans.

"People go to Rome as one of the big events in their life," Pannes said. "The idea that we can turn around and bring Rome out to the rest of the world is a great opportunity.

"When we invested in this club, the idea wasn't to buy a European football club. The idea was there's a club in a city like Rome ... a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take it and build. Rome's like New York City in the sense that a winning team in Rome is just at a different level than most teams in most cities around the world."

Pannes said Roma made a deal to be the club in residence at Disney for the next seven years, bringing the entire first squad to practice and play in Florida every winter.

"When you can partner with the greatest family entertainment brand in the world, that's a pretty fantastic platform to then start to market across the U.S.," he said. "It also makes us authentic in the U.S."

Cubs fans should be able to relate with Roma fans, who share a similar passion for their respective team, according to Pannes.

"To bring the world game back to Wrigley is a tremendous opportunity for us," Pannes said. "We're honored to be here. The Cubs have been outstanding in the way they've welcomed us. The facility looks tremendous. It's just going to be a great day tomorrow. We have an unbelievable opponent that we're going to play that taps into the vibrant Polish community in the city of Chicago."