By Seamus Leonard
Brendan Rodgers has dubbed Philippe Coutinho “the brain” of his Liverpool team after the Brazilian produced a virtuoso performance against Roma in a pre-season friendly in Boston last night.
The Reds fell to a 1-0 defeat to the Giallorossi at Fenway Park, but Coutinho was at the heart of everything Liverpool did well on a makeshift pitch at the iconic baseball venue.
The playmaker showed his trademark trickery in possession, but also appeared to accept more responsibility than he has previously since joining the Merseysiders from Inter Milan in January 2013.
Asked how he thought his number 10 had performed, Rodgers replied: "Coutinho is the brain in our team, the continuity player.
“He might not score many goals, but he's a wonderful reference for the team."
"He is the one that gets the team ticking, gets the movement in front of the ball" - Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers said Coutinho got Liverpool ticking and hailed his prowess while still quite young.
"He is the brain, he is the one that gets the team ticking, gets the movement in front of the ball," he said.
"He goes and gets on the ball. He's a fantastic talent for such a young player and he's still gaining his fitness.
"He makes the crowd get off their seat. For someone so small, he's very tough and robust. He's a wonderful technician that has a great idea, tactically, of the game."
The defeat, courtesy of a 90th-minute own goal by Daniel Agger, was the second time Rodgers and Liverpool had lost to Roma in a pre-season encounter at Fenway. The Italians also prevailed 2-1 when the sides met in July 2012.
However, Rodgers has his eye on the long game and is more concerned with getting his charges in the right shape to start their league campaign on the front foot.
The former Swansea boss denied taking a different approach to pre-season to account for the Reds’ upcoming European exertions, although he did admit that the friendly against German giants Borussia Dortmund, fixed for 10 August at Anfield, was set up with the Champions League in mind.
“The most important result for me is the first game of the season,” Rodgers said.
“We can play friendlies where we go and win every game and you might not find out anything.
“But we’ve got a real tough set of fixtures over course of the pre-season. We’ve got a great tour out here. We go back and then within a few days we play Borussia Dortmund. So we’re really pitching ourselves in at a real good level to get a good gauge.
“But the most important objective is that we’re in real good physical condition for our first game of the season against Southampton, and that technically and tactically we’ll have honed up all the principles and ideals that have made us so successful in the last couple of years in terms of our game.”
The next leg of the Reds’ US tour will see them travel to Chicago to take on Olympiacos in the International Champions Cup on Sunday. They follow that up with further cup clashes with Manchester City in New York on 30 July and against AC Milan in Charlotte on 2 August.