Roma 1 - Inter 0
At some point in the year two thousand and nine, roughly near the time of November, Mirko Vucinic flipped a switch. It may well have been his switch, a fussy on/off - no dimmer - which occasionally shorts but just as often surges through the light, sending glass crackling to the floor below in brilliant supernova. His switch turned out to be Roma's switch.
Last year Mirko quietly, so quietly we hardly heard a peep, carried this team through a lengthy win streak and scudetto run. I am the last person on earth to heap the credit onto the goalscorers who nail one in five and reap the adoration when a defensive partnership hitting one in five is soon known as relegation; football builds from the back and credit should do likewise. Last year was, to a degree, the exception: Mirko gets a significant portion of that credit.
The annual crisis hit rock bottom - it hit the Earth's mantle to be more precise - 'round about the time they were donating a 1-0 piece of charity to Livorno at home. It was arguably the worst lost since The Day That Never Happened In Manchester - some might say it was worse when comparing opposition. And then Mirko Vucinic scored a goal. Entirely mundane save for the fact that it was his very first of the season. And then he scored another the next week, against Inter, out of relatively nowhere. And then he just kept scoring goals. And quietly, as Francesco aged, Jeremy attempted to do the very same, Mirko took over. Not just the goal scoring duties, but the team. Both scoring and creating once Luca Toni came to town and he was able to play his more organic, very quietly he put AS Roma on his back. Julio Sergio managed his fair share of the load as well, and David, Juan and Nicolas deserve many, many cookies, but he was the tipping point. From constant frustration and a second lost season to the most improbable run at a scudetto we'll see for years, beginning the day Mirko scored his first goal.
I don't need to sit here and point out the parallels, even those beyond Mirko; all I'd really like is to look back on both in a few months time: Mirko, with Inter somewhere in the vicinity.
It's something that can't really be explained, largely because he himself is beyond explanation. How can one man go from so rubbish to so astonishing the next? How does one have such a knack for that certain je ne sais quoi the sports world bills as 'clutch'? And what sane person pantses himself in order to celebrate a goal?
There is an indefinable quality within Mirko that we'll never find on video game ratings or a scouting report, the only hints of which would be a frustrated search for description and the splinters from a broken pencil. There is nothing to pinpoint because it is neither tangible nor intangible; it just is, existing somewhere in the gray space in between.
He wasn't Man of the Match - to call Juan flawless would be a grave injustice, as though he merely performed his job exquisitely; no, he performed that of several men exquisitely - nor was he probably near the top five. But that doesn't matter, because Mirko Vucinic doesn't do the leg work. He's the man who casually shows for the journey's final turn, when legs are weak and spirits weary, to put the team on his back and shoulder the weight of AS Roma across the finishing line in one singularly brilliant burst. Something like a supernova.
- Juan was close to Canna in '06 good and if anyone else had scored that goal, he'd be getting the glowing tribute. One of the "little things" conspiring to torpedo Roma this past month has been Juan at less than his typically perfect self.
He's a rather astonishing defensive artisan.
- And while Juan was Man of the Match, we got to watch the man he replaced, who was run out of town at his expense, get turned into a Romanian pretzel all day by Menez, still lacking the motor skills to buckle his fucking helmet.
Some things never change.
- Actually, the whole back line deserves a lengthy standing O. Cassetti has been quietly excellent, largely while playing out of position, for a few games; Nicolas Burdisso reminded us of the Nicolas Burdisso who made us forget Nicolas Burdisso last year; and John Arne Riise wears short sleeves put on a 90 minute documentary as to why he's so important to this team - not to mention he too showed up Chivu by giving a clinic in buckling one's fucking helmet.
Defense, man - it doesn't lose shit.
(Mirko Vucinic wins it.)
- During the buildup to the goal, I saw Mirko Vucinic make that run and immediately said the world's quickest prayer that Daniele would see the same as I. As the ball was in the air, Genoa blurted into my head, and shortly after the goal, the diving header against Real Madrid and then the Milan winner from two years back. Once done screaming like a little girl and heart rate back to less than fatal levels, I realized Mirko's latest was the lovechild of three of the greatest goals (his greatest as well) during his time with Roma.
- Maybe it's about time Daniele a) plays right wing, or b) passes to no one but Mirko.
- The media blowing anything and everything Francesco Totti does out of proportion is getting a bit tired. Anyone who's watched him for more than a few weeks would know that he doesn't react well when he fails to meet his lofty on-pitch standards and that he gets very frustrated with himself. In fact we've seen it a lot over the years, particularly in derbies and games of similar importance. And he didn't play particularly well. And he didn't react well. Arithmetic.
I really am mystified by all of this.
- Ranieri's subs: oftentimes he's just as mystifying as those who apparently haven't watched Roma, well, ever. However, anyone who saw Brescia would know that Mirko looked to have 5 minutes in his legs on Wednesday - he was just a tank with little ability to move past levels of Adriano - so 15 minutes was even a surprise and Adriano was, well, he even made an injured Mirko seem sprightly. Yeah, he reportedly hadn't warmed up sufficiently - which rockets him up the ol' shit list once again - but Baptista is, at the very least, fit. And he can move. That's always a far more positive sub than a few minutes of Adriano occasionally jogging four feet to the left.
- The rest of it...all excellent.
Hard to criticize the first win after such a start, eh?
There is, however, one problem with this win: in order to understand its true value, we have to wait. Perhaps until Cluj, Perhaps until Napoli, perhaps until Christmas - we just can't know.
Fortunately there is one thing for which we no longer have to wait: