Well, we've arrived. Sunday's visit to the Genoa Cricket and Football club is the 38th and final match of what was perhaps Roma's finest non-title season ever. Over the past nine months we've witnessed the rebirth of Daniele De Rossi, marveled at the ageless excellence of Francesco Totti, and have been treated to some of the finest football on the continent. This season has been, by any measure, an unmitigated success, but a record breaking season was the furthest thing from anyone's mind back on August 25th.
Sure, Roma's new signings were impressive and most experts were optimistic about Rudi Garcia's chances of success, but, don't forget, prior to opening day against Livorno, life around Trigoria was far from settled. Roma was barely a month removed from selling Marquinhos, the Erik Lamela sale was still up in the air, Adem Ljajic was barely a blip on the rumor radar, and we simply had no clue where Miralem Pjanic's head was at after a tumultuous season under Zdenek Zeman. We attempted to capture the mood heading into the season's first fixture like this:
Your typical A.S. Roma season is always embroiled in controversy and wallowing in self-pity, but they usually have the good graces to lead on us on a bit, giving us a few weeks of glory before the eventual fall. But if the past 72 hours haven't been enough of a preview for you, allow me to play spoiler: this year, the anxiety begins in August.
If I had only been more prophetic, I wouldn't have been so pessimistic, but that was our conditioned response to the prospect of a new season. Sure, we love the game and the team, but we had come to expect the worst. But then something happened, and after a few weeks we began to wonder. Where were the dropped points? Where was the self-loathing? Why am I so happy?
And that's really the magical part of this season, Roma has re-written the script. With that in mind, let's take an admittedly brief look at the epilogue to this paradigm shifting season.
But, in keeping with our template, a look at the first fixture.
January 12, 2014: Roma 4, Genoa 0
I generally have some slight memory of the reverse fixtures, but even I didn't remember the extent to which Roma dominated this match. Led by Franceso Totti's six salvos, Roma outshot Genoa 22-0...twenty two to nothing. As that absurd statistic suggests, Roma positively waxed Genoa on this afternoon, and honestly, they could've bagged another three before all was said and done. This was just an epic and endlessly entertaining match.
Ultimately, this maybe the moment that encapsulated that match, if not the entire season
Alessandro Florenzi's overhead volley was perfectly timed, perfectly executed, finished and celebrated with a flourish.
Searching For Meaning
If you guessed that I peppered this preview with videos because I can't think of anything cogent to say about this match, you'd be correct. Sure, the past few matches weren't exactly life or death affairs, but there was at least something to play for; the Scudetto was a mathematical possibility and, at the very least, Roma had an outside shot at reaching 90 points.
But tomorrow, what motivation is there? Miralem Pjanic is already in World Cup mode, with the rest of Roma's internationals not far behind, and beyond hoping Totti bags two goals to reach his double-double, this match is a bit short on intrigue. If nothing else, we can hope that Rudi Garcia won't let the season end on a three match losing streak.
On the flip side of the coin, this match should afford us the opportunity to witness some seldom seen players. Lukasz Skorupski is sure to get the nod after his stellar performance last week, and with only one year left on Morgan De Sanctis' contract, don't sell short this audition.
Speaking of players looking to make an impression, with Mehdi Benatia sure to ride the pine on this one, look for Rafael Toloi to earn his fifth start of the season. Toloi has looked alternatively fantastic and foolish, and while he may have already shown enough to warrant a call back, given his €5.5m buyout clause, this is Toloi's last chance to prove he's worth that rather hefty price.
So, while all is nearly said and done, there are several players with a lot to prove and a lot at stake tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe we'll even get a glimpse at Federico Ricci.
No matter how it unfolds, this will be our last taste of Roma for three months, and while the World Cup will obviously be a pleasant distraction, this is perhaps the most important summer Roma will ever encounter. The first brick has been expertly laid, but now Roma has to complete the foundation for their success.
It's sure to be a frantic and harried summer, full of rumors and conjecture. So, before we're beset upon by the absurdity of silly season, let's enjoy this last bit of rationality.