The first friendly of the summertime is always a difficult one to try and read much in to no matter what the state of Juventus is at that time. It’s especially difficult to do just that when the team you write about doesn’t actually play its first friendly and its second friendly then becomes its first friendly as a result.
So, yeah. Things were interesting coming into Thursday night’s visit to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Things were interesting for the very fact that we have yet to see Juventus play anything worthwhile in nearly two months because a good number of the Barcelona roster ate so bad food.
Juve evened things up with rivals AC Milan twice in Southern California, ultimately beating them 4-3 on penalties thanks to a pair of big saves from Carlo Pinsoglio. Yes, that is very much something that you probably shouldn’t be surprised to read in a recap of things from a friendly played in the final week of July because, ultimately, if Pinsoglio — no matter how much we love him and want him to be the life of all of our parties — is having to do such a thing in a penalty shootout that actually counts then it signals just what kind of dire straights Juve may be in at the time. But come Thursday night, it was Juve’s No. 3 goalkeeper and a hodgepodge of PK takers who started things off on a winning note this summer even though the results probably don’t mean as much as some want you to believe.
Don’t forget, we sat in the press box in Las Vegas around 12 months ago telling you about Juventus’ win over Chivas to begin the U.S. summer tour and how good some of the biggest names looked. We all know how last season turned out and how maybe the most impressive player of them all that game, Paul Pogba, has barely played since said appearance in Vegas.
On this night, though, there were some good things that happened well before Pinsoglio was saving penalties and doing it with a giant smile on his face.
Was the overall team performance all that great? No, not by any means. This was decent at times, but pretty not-great for a lot of other phases of the game.
But when you see Federico Chiesa buzzing around and growing into the game like he did prior to his knee injury, that’s a good sign.
When you see Timothy Weah, in his first appearance playing for the club that his legendary dad loves some much, is flashing his big-time speed and creating a good number of chances on the right wing, that’s a good sign.
When you see Dean Huijsen at all of 18 years old showing absolutely no fear and going strong into challenges, playing with poise, taking a crack at goal and then scoring a penalty in the kind of fashion he did, that’s a good sign.
When you see Federico Gatti unable to get his head to the ball and Milan scoring a pair of goals because of it, that’s ... wait, that’s not a good sign.
It was very much a mixed bag. It was a total mixed bag. It was a total mixed bag that you would expect from a friendly in late-July. And it was the total mixed because that you definitely expect from a team like Juventus that is missing some of its most-talented players and hasn’t played a friendly yet this summer.
There’s no reason to get carried away about the current state of this team because there’s no reason to. Can you be optimistic that Chiesa is certainly trending in the right direction? Of course. But, overall, this is still very much a time in flux that is probably going to have to try and win this coming season by winning the by the slimmest of margins like they did last season — and we know how that went.
But hey, at least they got their first friendly out of the way. It would have been nice to say that five days ago, but the insides of certain number of Barcelona players had other ideas. So there’s that, which is more than we could say Saturday night when everybody was trying to one-up each other for poop jokes.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Don’t lie, you know you at least cracked a smile when you saw everybody congratulating Pinsoglio after Matias Soulé’s penalty won it for Juventus. It’s a friendly, but for a guy like Pinsoglio to get a little bit of shine is never a bad thing no matter if the game counts or not.
- I mean ... really, when are we going to have a chance to have something like this be flashed on the television screen again? It’s magic!
- I’m guessing Pinsoglio being named man of the match is something he’s not going to let the likes of Tek Szczesny and Mattia Perin forget about — at all. Pinso won the day, that’s for damn sure.
- OK, OK. Federico Chiesa also won the day with how he played. And boy, as much as I want to contain my excitement after his performance because it was for all of about 50 minutes or so and there will certainly be transfer rumors involving him over the next few weeks, seeing him play with that pace, that aggressiveness and yet also that kind of control was certainly a great sight. Is Chiesa being fielded as a striker optimal? No, of course not. But Chiesa being at the center of the majority of good things Juve did in attack or on the counter, that’s a very good development.
- Seeing Chiesa with wide open spaces in front of him and then create a handful of scoring chances, that’s what you want from your most dynamic attacking player. We’ll see how things go going forward, but on this night we saw plenty of flashes of pre-injury Chiesa.
- Juventus without Alex Sandro on the field: two goals allowed.
- Juventus with Alex Sandro on the field: no goals allowed.
- Go ahead and dispute those facts, folks. These facts, they are facts and you will just have to accept it no matter how you feel about Alex Sandro.
- The previous three bullet points do not equate to a statement that means Sandro should be starting for Juventus this season no matter what formation Allegri goes with. Have him do exactly what he did Thursday night if he is going to insist on staying rather than leave Turin this summer — be an option off the bench and nothing more.
- “Hey, Tim, we know you haven’t played wingback all too much in your professional career, but tonight you’re going to be matched up against Rafa Leao most of the time. Good luck!”
- In all seriousness, it was a baptism of fire of sorts for Timothy Weah — not only was he looked to contribute to the attack but also had the task of trying to stop one of the most dynamic attacking forces in Serie A in the form of Leao. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m guessing that Weah is going to be watch a whole lot of film of this one to try and make sure his next meeting with Leao goes a little smoother.
- Hoping Federico Gatti also works on just judgement of crosses on set pieces because we all know how Juventus has a tendency to not exactly be the best at defending set pieces.
- All four goals in this game originated from set pieces. Welcome to July!
- Daniele Rugani will get credit for his goal to tie the game at 2-2 just so that we can remind Sergio about it for the entirety of the 2023-24 season.
- Dean Huijsen!
- Kenan Yildiz!
- Joseph Nonge!
- Samuel Iling-Junior ... center mid? Max gonna Max — especially in preseason friendlies.
- Andrea Cambiaso — not bad! Consider me intrigued.
- Giorgio Chiellini was pictured pre-game in a nice suit and the top button or two of his dress shirt unbuttoned. He very much looked like a guy enjoying life in Los Angeles ... and somebody who is looking the part of a guy who could take a seat on Juve’s board of directors whenever the hell he chooses to do so.
- I dunno about you guys, but I’m guessing Real Madrid will be a little tougher of an opponent come Wednesday. No inside information or anything like that, folks. Just a guess!