While the World Cup takes a break in the action, we'll jump back into our positional reviews from this past season, which, believe it or not, only ended five weeks ago; funny what the World Cup does to one's sense of time. Despite the year-to-year uncertainty that comes with being a Roma fan, we could always take comfort in the fact that, no matter where they finished on the table, Roma always had two to three world class players. There's Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, of course, who are always among the best at their position, but Roma has never had anything approaching a world class keeper.
They still don't, but Morgan De Sanctis brought a level of stability in between the sticks we haven't seen in ages, while young Lukasz Skorupski did enough to make the Mad Max look popular among the kids of Rome.
While we await our own Gianluigi Buffon, let's take a look at how Roma's portieri stacked up to Gigi in 2013-2014.
Morgan De Sanctis
Statistically speaking, MDS was awfully, awfully close to Gigi this past season, showing remarkable poise and guidance during his first season at the Olimpico. Despite a few isolated hiccups, De Sanctis was a rock behind Roma's backline and was, in many ways, the emotional leader of this record-breaking team.
MDS was one of safer gambles Walter Sabatini made last summer, after all we're talking about a man who had approximately 400 Serie A appearances under his belt before this past season, but there were still lingering doubts about the former Napoli keeper, who was, to be fair, prone to making the occasional game changing mistake. However, MDS erased all those doubts immediately, allowing only five goals through Roma's first 15 matches.
All told, MDS made 36 appearances this season, third most among Serie A keepers, and kept 21 cleansheets, tops in Italy and one better than Buffon. Do the quick math on that one and you'll find that MDS shutout opponents in 58.3% of his appearances, second only to Gigi among keepers with more than one appearance....umm, yeah, keeper stats are great, huh? But when you look at the gap between Buffon, De Sanctis and the rest of the league, the two veterans look awfully impressive, as the next closest competitor was Samir Handanovic at only 45%.
Of course, part of that should be credited to Roma and Juve's lockdown defensive work, but give MDS credit where credit is due; he was stellar when called upon. De Sanctis was successful in 99% of his claims and punches this season, one percentage point ahead of Buffon, which is just a fancy way of saying that, even at 37-years-old, MDS can still read and react with the best of them.
While it remains to be seen if Morgan De Sanctis can repeat this performance in 2014-2015, he brought a level of stability, communication, and esprit de corps Roma hadn't experienced in many years, all while leading Serie A in cleansheets.
The book on young Lukasz is so short, we might as well call it a pamphlet. But, my, oh my, this kid is enticing. Skorupski, still just 23-years-old, stands 6'2" and is nearly 185lbs of pure muscle, both of which he uses with great effectiveness, showing little hesitation to jump into the fray in Roma's penalty area. He's big, he's fast and, so far, he's fearless; all qualities that can cut both ways--can he augment that athleticism with intuition and tactical knowledge, or will he use it as a crutch?
Nor did he wilt under pressure, facing a record setting Juventus side on their way to a third straight Scudetto. While PDO's last minute winner (ugh) was unstoppable, Skorupski faced 11 shots and was successful in all his claims and punches that evening. Granted, Juve having already wrapped up the title wasn't hitting on all cylinders, but it's still a hell of a way to make your Serie A debut.
Grade: Incomplete, but promising
At such a young age, we simply have no idea what to expect from this kid, but he seems to have a good attitude and certainly made the most of his two appearances this season. Is he the long-term solution? Too soon to say, of course, but he certainly has as good a chance as any other keeper of the future to pass through Trigoria lately, but if Roma somehow stumble their way into Mattia Perin or Simone Scuffet, Skorupski might prove to be Polish for "Curci"
So there you have it, both Roma's stop gap and possible future keeper performed spectacularly when called upon this season, but will either man be there to open up the Stadio della Roma in 2016?*
*Date subject to change, to say the least.