Juventus' busy week in the Bay Area finally saw them get on the field and do what they've traveled out to the West Coast to do — play a game against a competitive opponent. While the end result against Everton wasn't exactly the greatest one in the world, there were certainly things to take out of the 6-5 loss on penalty kicks. What are those exactly? Well, I'm glad you asked!
The road to the Supercoppa and Serie A opener gets shorter is getting shorter as the days go by, with only a trip to Los Angeles and Miami standing between Juve and their first chance to win some hardware this season. And Wednesday night in San Francisco was just the latest step down the road towards the season opener against Sampdoria in Genoa.
(And for the record: No, I was not the pitch invader who had his penalty kick saved by Tim Howard.)
1. Luca Marrone being a vice-Pirlo is the right decision
Yeah, I know his misplaced pass eventually led to Everton's only goal from open play on the night. And, yeah, I know that his performance against Everton wasn't all that great overall. But when I think of Luca Marrone, I think of a midfielder who can be a productive player whenever his number is called. He certainly was last season in bits and pieces when he was played out of position as Leonardo Bonucci's backup. But with the arrival of Angelo Ogbonna, it looks like Marrone is going back to where he should be. Even if Juve don't see him as a direct replacement for Pirlo down the road, keeping him as a midfielder is what will help him develop the most.
2. Kwadwo Asamoah in the center of the midfield adds a new dynamic.
We all know Asamoah's story by now — signed as a midfielder, then shifted out wide to be a wingback in his first season with Juve. Looking back on it, Antonio Conte certainly made the right call having the Ghanian midfielder play in a much wider position than he had previously played in while at Udinese.
But as this preseason has gone by, Asamoah has returned to his roots as a central midfielder. He was there when the squad was depleted because all the Italian internationals were working on their samba skills in Brazil at the Confed Cup, and he's still there now that everybody is back. Watching him in Everton reminded me of the player that was such a huge part of Udinese's midfield. He was able to use his speed to start a number of counterattacks and scored a damn good goal to cap off what was a very good performance — one of the best throughout the Juve squad.
3. Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal are starting to build some chemistry
As I sat by one of the corner flags at AT&T Park, I posted this on Twitter in the middle of the first half:
Link up between Vidal-Tevez-Llorente is gonna be fun to watch.— Danny (@djp4cal) August 1, 2013
Was it the best game for Juve's two new strikers? Nah, they're clearly still working out the kinks as preseason training progresses. But we got glimpses at AT&T of what it may be like when it all comes together. Vidal, Tevez and Llorente had some very good combination plays between them, and one would think that the report between the three of them will continue to get better as time goes on. And then when you add Andrea Pirlo sending passes to both Tevez and Llorente and Claudio Marchisio running onto passes from the midfield like Vidal was Wednesday night, it's hard not to be optimistic right now about what this group might do.
4. Antonio Conte isn't stressing about a shootout loss to open the International Champions Cup and neither should we.
The fact is, Conte's side never really go crazy during preseason friendlies. It's just the way things are and, as long as the results during the season don't change, there's no reason to think what happens in July and August would be any different than his previous two years. Let's not kid ourselves: Juventus are preparing for results down the road, not for ones in games that, in the grand scheme of things, don't mean much other than chances to get in shape for the ones that do. And while we continuously facepalm at the some of Federico Peluso's defending from last night, let's not forget that basically half of Juve's usual starting XI were sitting on the bench laughing at a dude running onto the pitch.
It's only the first day of August, folks. No need to worry.
5. Angelo Ogbonna is slowly showing he can handle the middle of Juventus' defense.
It was far from a perfect match for Juve's newest defensive signing. He tumbled over a few Everton players, got carded in the process, and had a couple of passes go straight to players not wearing those new fancy yellow away shirts. But, in a way, that's to be expected as Ogbonna adjust to a new role as the man in the middle of Juventus' three-man defense. And the 25-year-old defender was the first one to say after the Everton friendly that he needs to get better as time goes by. At least in my eyes, that's what you want to see — especially for a guy who is adapting to a new role in a new club.