LAS VEGAS — It’s the first friendly of the summer and just a couple of weeks into preseason training, so you don’t really have any clue what to expect other than to go into things with an open mind. Throw into account that Juventus arrived in Las Vegas probably 28 hours before kickoff Friday night at Allegiant Stadium.
So, what do you know?
Here’s Juve, probably with their internal body clocks all kinds of messed up, coming out and doing some really good things in the first of three friendlies in the United States.
The final score ended up being 2-0 in favor of Juventus, but it was more than just that. It was about seeing Ángel Di Maria absolutely cook would-be Chivas defenders for what felt like 80 percent of the time he had the ball at his feet. It was about seeing Paul Pogba make the kinds of runs from midfield into the attacking third that made him such a joy to watch during his first stint at Juventus. Heck, we got to see Nicolo Fagioli nearly score a from midfield and Manuel Locatelli simply ooze class — and that was all in the first half.
Juventus’ opening 45 minutes — which, considering some of the big-name players that were out there — gave you glimpses of what could be. And this time of year, that’s exactly what you want. Juve was never going to blow Chivas away because, well, one team is a couple of weeks into preseason training and the other has already started their domestic campaign nearly a month ago.
But when you see so many of the good things Di Maria did as he floated around from the right wing to the center behind the two strikers and then back out during the next attack, you can get excited about what is potentially on its way when Serie A starts next month. When you see Pogba and Locatelli play well, you can get excited. When you see a 21-year-old like Fagioli lor Federico Gatti, at 24 years old, make the biggest jump of his career look so comfortable out there, you can get excited.
July is about finding some things to build around as you ramp up for the upcoming season — especially this one that will be so unique for a number of reasons. And for the first 90 minutes of preseason action, I think it’s safe to say that we can look at what Juve has put out there and say that it was a net positive more than anything else.
Was it perfect? Of course not, because you can’t really expect perfection on the 22nd day of July when things are very much a work in progress and the roster will probably still have players coming and definitely leaving.
But like I said, this time of year is about finding the good things, and I’m going to be walking out of Allegiant Stadium on this night feeling good about some things that Juve did. There’s room to improve, but I’m guessing this is a pretty good first step.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- The press box at Allegiant Stadium is almost as big as my house, which is about 1,050 square feet. And you can tell this is definitely the kind of place that can fill up when the Las Vegas Raiders play during Sundays in the fall and winter.
- For the record, Sergio and I were the first ones in the press box (and the whole stadium for that matter), so we totally called dibs on the best seats there were. (Not that there’s bad seats, but our seats were the best ones.)
- After spending the last part of our walk to the stadium in 110-degree heat, I have never appreciated the air conditioning inside more than I am as I write this out.
- A few Juve players came out to the field early to warm up — turned out, none of them were starting, so it made sense — but the rest of the squad came out as a group and boy did they get a nice reception from the majority Chivas fan crowd. And by “nice” I mean they were showered with boos and made it very much feel like a Chivas home game well before kickoff. (Not that we didn’t expect that already.) So much for a friendly environment feeling friendly.
- The same thing happened when Juve’s starting lineup was announced. Expected that one.
- Juve’s first shot on goal? A Paul Pogba long-range screamer. I remember those.
- An interesting twist in the starting lineup: Danilo as a center back and on the left of Federico Gatti. That’s something I wasn’t expecting coming in.
- Seeing Bremer playing on the left in Juve’s center back pairing with Daniele Rugani was also an interesting twist at the start of the second half.
- Some of these moves Ángel Di Maria put on Chivas defenders ... oh maddone.
- Some of these moves Paul Pogba put on people ... he’s so fun when he’s playing with that little extra spice of creativity and flair.
- To see Fagioli play so well alongside Pogba and Locatelli was a very nice surprise. We’re still kinda unsure about what the immediate future holds for him, so for him to turn in that kind of performance right away in the first preseason friendly, that’s not going to make Max Allegri’s thought process any easier if it’s a wait-and-see kind of evaluation process.
- Nothing against Nicolo Rovella who came on to begin the second half and played pretty decent overall, but I feel safe in saying that one Nico definitely one the day.
- Gotta love preseason friendlies — especially the first one out of the gate — when Allegri comes out with a completely different lineup to begin the second half than he had in the first half.
- The press box is very high up at Allegiant Stadium and even then Bremer looked an absolute Adonis standing next to everybody else. He’s very large.
- This ref not only clotheslined Di Maria on accident but then had one of those weird free kicks from inside the penalty area that you rarely see at any level. Ah, bless the USA.
- I know it’s taken me over 1,000 words to mention Juve’s new away kit and I apologize for that, but I will say this about them: they’re freaking beautiful and I am going to get one.
- Just wanna state for the record, Sergio and I had an absolute blast and we’re glad you all could, in some sort of way, experience this with the both of us. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading the Vegas content as much as we’ve had fun putting it together.