The Inter Milan vs. Real Salt Lake match Tuesday was more than simply an exhibition between two gifted soccer teams, it was a chance to see what RSL could do against the best Europe has to offer.
And in that, the game was a disappointment.
Inter Milan is a bona fide giant of world soccer, but they didn’t outclass Real Salt Lake at the Rio Tinto. In fact, just moments after the 8 p.m. kick off, it became apparent that class was in short supply for both teams.
At first glance it would seem like a coup by the RSL management to attract such legendary opposition to Utah, as Inter became the first European side to be welcomed to the Rio Tinto.
Inter Milan is in the United States to take part in the International Champions Cup. Somewhat disingenuously, this is marketed to the American audience as a competitive tournament—a unique opportunity to see the megastars of the European game up close and in the flesh in various U.S. cities.
But for the European giants that jump the pond, this competition amounts to nothing more than a friendly pre-season tournament and an opportunity to market their brand in the American market.
At the Rio Tinto on Tuesday, the game for Inter Milan was a pre pre-season warm-up game before going to Chicago to meet FC Bayern Munich. And for RSL this exhibition game was sandwiched between two competitive MLS games.
The match’s lack of significance showed: Neither team fielded a strong lineup, there were many substitutions (including both goalkeepers). As a result, the pace of the game was mostly slow.
As the game progressed it became apparent why the 14,266 in attendance had been gathered, as promotion after promotion for both teams were flashed on the electronic-advertising boards.
There were fleeting glimpses of real quality. In the 74th minute, Stevan Jovetić lobbed the RSL keeper and several defenders with an exquisite chipped shot, only to see his effort rebound back off the post. But mostly this game served up dull, soporific fodder. It ended 2-1 to Inter Milan, with Jovetić scoring a late winner for Inter with a cheeky backheeled strike in the dying moments of the game.
All three goals in the game resulted from simply awful defensive play.
All in all, this was a most uninspiring game and, most disappointingly, tells us little about where the MLS stands relative to its European counterparts.
Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll get a chance to find out and a meaningful, competitive tournament between U.S. and the best that Europe has to offer will be developed. Until then I suspect we’ll continue to get marketing and production over substance where soccer is concerned, and that’s a shame.