It's 1:15am in Boston as I enter this article.
We're now two-thirds of the way through Roma's US tour, and while some elements aren't full gelled (don't worry, I could feel some of you aging prematurely during the first half), there's no denying that the team has been decisive in its two victories in Chicago and Boston.
Here are some of my personal observations from the press box at Fenway:
Leandro Castan. I'll be curious to see how he performs up against the viciousness of Toto Di Natale, the Cavani Monster, or God Knows Which Strikers the Big Three Black-Striped Northerners Will Buy Before August 31 at 11:59. But tonight, I thought he put in a clinical performance with some great tackles. He and Burdisso make a promising pair that could make me forget Crockett & Tubbs of yesteryear. Let's just hope they don't A: turn into Michael Mann's version of Crockett & Tubbs and B: Burdisso manages to keep his studs out of Daniele Conti's femur. We know that's an issue.
Bradley. I'm glad he scored first. Even the numerous Liverpool fans started a bro-ey "USA" chant, which I'm sure annoyed the hell out of virtually everyone else on the pitch and confirmed Why The Enemy Hates Us. But still, it really took the sting out of LFC. Plus, his play in the first half was quite solid. I really feel that he'll flourish playing alongside DDR and I have faith that he'll embody the sort of player we wanted Gago to be. No, this is not just my nationality talking. He's a versatile player with the right combo of age, intelligence, and experience that you don't find from most players who started out in Major League Soccer. He went to Chievo precisely to play for a team like Roma.
His Holiness, Francesco. Witnessing him in the flesh is akin to a buffet of the finest dessert (preferably a chocolate one) that one can experience. Over and over and over and over, except you never get tired of it and never get sick. He looked great in the first half. What I'll be very curious about is to see exactly where he'll play in Zeman's formation. Obviously, he's in great shape, and I expect him to Be Francesco and grab the team by the scruff of the neck on bad days, but I wonder how he'll shift into more creative roles in the months ahead.
Kid Lamela. Remember how people didn't want Bradley because all the Chievo they saw was Lamela straight ankle-breaking Mikey (I'll be nice and refrain from calling him "Skeletor Jr.," despite his father's resemblance to He-Man's notorious villain)? Bradley was great through and through, but Lamela's intelligence and movement defy his young age. If he keeps his head screwed on straight, he's gonna be The Goods, and I can only imagine him really flourishing under Zemanlandia.
Bojan. Look, he gets a lot of stick, but when the TV cameras weren't on him, I was watching his positioning, how he dropped back as needed to help out the defense, and still managed to get himself into the right places. No, he didn't have a ball hit the back of the net, but there's no denying his talent, and I think he'll come good in Serie A. Maybe not €40 million, but perhaps a "Barça will be too busy trying to buy another striker (before Madrid does) to care"-priced fee.
Pjanic. Miralem was in the right places at the right time. Again, was impressed by his movement and pressing. I sincerely hope that we get Late 2011 Miralem and not Late Winter 2012 Miralem.
Most of all: Consider they did all of this without Daniele pulling the strings in the back.
Turn off the dark:
I said this at halftime. But, of course, I blame that on the Boston water and its interference with my delicate Californian constitution. And the Beastie Boys references I made while taking a photo of the Paul Revere statue in North End.
Taddei at leftback. Look, just because Luis Enrique asked him to do it in a pinch doesn't mean I want it to be a permanent thing. It's the equivalent of when your significant other asks you to let a degenerate cousin move in and crash on the couch "until they get back on their feet." Mmm hmm.
Rosi. Oh, the Romanity! I hear Aleandro is going to the land of (naturally occuring) MGS-laden cheesewheels and amazing ham. Given the Gallop and Cross that we've all come to expect, I'm thinking it may be for the best. And hey, at least he got to see some of America. Even if he couldn't sample Chicago deep dish.
Heinze. Still hasn't gotten a red card since putting on giallorosso. Despite his wily veteran status, I sense that streak will be broken this upcoming season. Tonight's match confirmed it for me. While not downright awful, I sense that after a season of choking out strikers with elegant white gloves, his luck will run out.
And now, I should share some highlights of my brain droppings during the game*
*These became more infrequent as my laptop battery began giving up the ghost. But you try toting a heavy laptop around Boston in 84F/29C for 7 hours before kick-off. There's a reason I left the charger at my friends' place in Cambridge, dammit.
Here in the press box at Fenway. It's 6:30pm, Eastern Daylight Time. Bear with me. The ride, it shall be bumpy.
6:32pm: Rousing rendition of YWNA from the Boston faithful. No Antonello Venditti? Damn, y'all are really trying to make Roma look like the away team, huh?
6:37pm. I can’t hear anything the announcer is saying from within the box. It sounds like Charlie Brown’s mom up here.
6:38pm. Kickoff. I didn’t get one of those lovely player number sheets. And there are a lot of children on the pitch with numbers on their backs, for both teams.
1:06: Whistlez. Foul on Roma. Free kick quickly taken.
1:50: Suddenly thinking how happy I am that Lobont isn’t facing the sun.
2:25: Pjanic delievers a delicious throughball to Rosi…which. Yeah. The more things change…
3:09: Taddei makes clinical tackle. I fear it’s the only one he’ll make tonight. But I like to be proven wrong. My ego can take it.
4:00: His Francesconess threads a gorgeous ball to Osvaldo, which "Rabbit" Lopez heads and misses.
4:39: Impressed by Skeletor Jr.’s movements. Bobbin’ n’ weavin’.
5:12: Totti droppin’ deep. Not crazy deep, considering the Zemanball on display, but still..
6:00: Raheem The Dreem Sterling with a great run (and MS Word accidentally filling my name in when I type his last name).
7:00: Suddenly wish I had my Vita with me to do a recap using just screens. Just as quickly realizing it’d take me until the New York game to actually recreate these moments in-game.
8:00: Nico Lopez shoots, keeper deflects, Ozzy volleys into the Fenway Kop.
9:28: Joe Cole runs, and Joe Coles.
9:50: I really should have just setup real time tweets for this.
10:30: I remember when it used to hurt to see Albertino playing for other teams. Then that Gotye song came out. Summarizes my points succinctly.
11:00: Castan out of bounds with the ball. Boston doesn’t like it. Linesman misses it. I’m from the West Coast; don’t they throw batteries when that happens?
12:11: Alberto on a solid run. There’s a part of me that’s all "bitch, you betta NOT be runnin’ at that backline like that."
12:51: Bradley smoothly guides to Nico L, who passes to Totti. Nice linkup between the three.
13:21: Taddei with a high pass to… a camera crew.
14:05: Keep wanting to say Tachtsidis like the Bob Marley song. The season (and its memes) start right here. Right now.
15:20: Liverpool looks much more clinical on possession...when they can get it. Some decent runs from Sterling.
16:15: Ozzy with a nice run and some stepovers to shoot on goal. But... no.
22:35: A few threatening shots on goal. Lobont is earning his keep. Overall, this Roma looks like it’s starting to come together. Well, come together to a point. There's a galloping Roman that's not satisfying me.
24:04: Ozzy’s shooting is a little caffeinated.
24:39: Joe Cole whistled for a run so far offsides, he started it in a Chelsea shirt.
25:19: Overall, Pjanic is making some intelligent runs.
27:00: This crowd is crazy quiet. Shouldn’t they be belting out songs or doing, I dunno, something?
28:12: Yellow to Sterling for bumrushing the wall during Totti's free kick. Yellow to Sterling M for having a same name.
28:20: Totti blasts through the wall to wide left. Liking how they’re playing.
32:00: Lobont goes way off the line. I attempt neutrality in the press box. Cannot suppress loud "Gesú!" Feel kind of bad, then remember Il Romanista is in front of me. And I'm worried about looking impartial...
33:07: Castan with a killer takedown. This guy’s gonna be good. I miss Ju-wan, but feeling good about him and Tony Montana in the box.
36:37: Say what you will about the quality of MLS, the shaving cream they use for free kick lines is arguably more important than goal line technology. But maybe I’m watching too many San Jose Earthquakes games this season. This game needs some magical shaving cream spray for FK's.
37:45: Joe Cole goes down. No way, says the ref.
39:25: I notice my battery is starting to dwindle. The charger encumbrance is enough to simply carry it around without charger and go until it's on its deathbed.
Halftime. I need a ginger ale.
48:25: Lots of pressure still applying. The mostly pro-Liverpool crowd does not seem happy. The lack of Suarez (who's off to the Olympics) and Stevie G doesn't help.
54:00: Watching the high line pushed to the halfline makes me wonder how the hell anyone will be able to A: pull this off in FIFA 13 and B: avoid the usual aerial through ball effectively.
56:51: Rosi with a shot that ends like a Rosi shot do.
58:12: If this were any team but an even bigger work-in-progress, this high line would be punished way worse. Liverpool tied to TORONTO FC, FFS.
62:20: Goal BRADLEY! Lamela’s assist was sick. Kid Lamela is gonna come up big in this system.
67:22: Heinze finally booked after around the umpteenth chippy foul. But we know Gabby doesn’t get a red. It’s not possible.
68:59: Goal Florenzi. This is cray cray. Lamela again with the assist.
Exodus: Tachsidis for Verre. Really rolling the dice on Primavera.
71:28: Bad call on Ozzy during a run. The officials have obviously been listening to the new Snoop Lion more than paying attention to that non-foul.
73:00 Bojan’s movements and his dropping deep to defend have been great. Rosi looks like a square peg trying to fit a round hole out there.
76: Marquinho on. Yay.
79:20: Liverpool pulls one back. Charlie Adam. Charlie Adam? I might've been more annoyed if it were Stewart Downing.
86:00: With the almost goal. As Uecker would say, juuuuuust a bit outside.
87:03: Foul on Marquinho (MAMF for those in the know).
90: Team has looked slick, well-organized (at most points), and threatening. And don’t forget, this is without DDR.
Stoppage: Don’t forget, everyone will say that Roma beat a team that drew to TFC. Eff those people.
MAMF got selfish on the ball in 92:04. Stripped.
Fulltime. A stout performance from Roma, who could've made it even worse for Liverpool, who are also working on building a new squad after losing some older key players.
I also attended the post-game conference. I'm not sure I'm in any condition to transcribe right now, but the tone I got from Brendan Rodgers' post-game chat was that he wanted to season some of the young players (which I interpret as "we can send out the youngsters to beat these Italians and focus on playing Stevie G and Andy Carroll in the game that really counts: the one against another English club").
Zeman, despite his terse nature, sang the praises of the team in the first half far moreso than in the second. The team seems like it's still piecing a few things together.
That's all from me. I'm crashing out for a few hours, then heading on a bus down to New York in time for team practice on Thursday in Harrison, NJ.
What'd you think of the team performance?