The beautiful thing about it being it the end of July and Juventus playing a game that means absolutely nothing is that you can pretty much chalk it up to being the middle of summer and then move on to the next one.
“Juventus plays like they’ve barely played a game in two months — meh! It’s July!”
For about the entire first half of Saturday afternoon’s game against Benfica at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, that’s pretty much how I felt about what I was watching. Juve looked like exactly what they are right now — a team with a couple of weeks of preseason training under their belts and without some of their biggest stars available to them because of World Cup obligations and vacations.
Then on came Luca Clemenza. And on top of Godfather jokes, the boy scored one heck of a goal that was the highlight of a much better second 45 minutes than the opening 45.
Does Juventus winning 4-2 on penalty kicks mean something? Well, probably not much outside of a possible morale boost that this trip to the United States isn’t a total waste. (And, just in case you were wondering, there is technically a table for the International Champions Cup, which is just kinda funny to think about.)
It’s just the thing with friendlies this time of year that you have to force yourself to not get all that high or that low about what actually happens on the field. (No matter what the talking heads on television will tell you during the game.)
Benfica are ahead of Juventus in their preseason preparations. They’ve got a Champions League qualifying match to play in about 10 days, which means they know that they’ve got to start to ramp things up if they want to even have the chance to be a part of big-time European football next season.
Juventus, on the other hand, still has two more friendlies in the United States to go and are playing without all of their attacking options not named Federico Bernardeschi. From an outsider’s point of view, it seems as though Max Allegri’s No. 1 goal is the physical condition of his players this time of year — and that’s how it should be.
Positive results in the win-loss column are nice. They will get some people more excited than others, which is to be expected.
But hey, no matter what you think of the tour thus far, we can now say the following: Juve are undefeated when Luca Clemenza scores a beautiful second-half goal at Red Bull Arena.
That’s something you couldn’t say yesterday!
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- During this game’s broadcast, I heard a lot of different ways to say Juventus. Who knew.
- ESPN’s halftime coverage involved guys kinda-sorta yelling at each other and delivering hot takes about the season Mo Salah was going to have. I tuned in for Juventus, but you wouldn’t have known it if you started watching at halftime.
- Juventus’ three International Champions Cup goals have been scored by Andrea Favilli and Luca Clemenza. Who knows what the future holds for two of those guys and their professional careers, but we’re talking about them more now we were a week ago.
- WHO NEEDS RONALDO WHEN YOU HAVE FAVILLI AND CLEMENZA.
- (I have something else to say in all caps. Brace yourselves.)
- HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS WE GOT DANIELE RUGANI AND MATTIA CALDARA PLAYING TOGETHER IN THE CENTER OF JUVE’S DEFENSE AGAINST BENFICA.
- Don’t screw this up, Juventus. Now that we’ve seen it once, I want it another, oh, 400 more times over the next decade or so.
- Friendlies, sure, but Joao Cancelo has looked pretty good so far. I like that Allegri is playing him all over the field, too, because it’s the preseason friendly season and that’s something that you’re able to do when the games don’t really mean anything outside of getting your match fitness down.
- Sami Khedira didn’t play in Wednesday’s game against Bayern Munich. Even though he was in the starting lineup against Benfica, you would have thought it was same thing four days later.
- Today was Wojciech Szczesny’s first appearance in a post-Gigi Buffon world. I had a few people mention it to me on Twitter during the game, and it’s something that will take something getting used to: Seeing somebody other than Buffon wearing the No. 1 jersey is a little weird. It’s no offense to Woj, but I hoped they at least put it on the shelf for a year just as one final honor to San Gigi. (Or maybe Buffon was totally okay with it, who knows. He is wearing No. 30 with PSG, so that might just be as weird to see this season.)
- Juventus’ next game will be against the MLS All-Star team. We get to see our old friends Sebastian Giovinco and Zlatan Ibrahimovic again! I hope Claudio Marchisio gives Seba a big hug because seeing those two Turin boys on the same field again will be cool.