We're only 15 months or so into our coverage of the AS Roma Women's Team, one that has taken on more depth than I ever imagined—thanks largely to the club broadcasting the majority of matches—but I think we've been guilty of losing perspective. Tomorrow's tilt against Tavagnacco is only Roma's 30th league match, but thanks to their impressive run last season and the pieces they add this summer, expectations for the Giallorosse sort of ran wild heading into this season.
With a newly robust attack, one that features the best U-21 player on the peninsula and two of the best creators in the game, it was hard not to get carried away. Juventus were probably still the cream of the crop, but not only did Roma add a bevy of international talent, they retained all their top players, giving Betty Bavagnoli a deep and well-rounded squad, one with punch on the wings thanks to Agnese Bonfantini and Annamaria Serturini, and a couple new focal points up top (Amalie Thestrup and Lindsey Thomas) and talent for days in midfield.
But then the season started, and rather than Roma running roughshod over anyone put in front of them, they've endured periods of inconsistency and complacency. After falling to AC Milan 3-0 in round one, Roma sparked the biggest victory in the club's brief history, beating Fiorentina 2-0 on the road. The Giallorosse then followed that up with back-to-back 4-0 wins over lowly Empoli and Verona before squeaking out a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo. It wasn't the perfect start we envisioned, but it was enough to give us hope of a top two finish.
But you know what Red told Andy that day at Shawshank: Hope is a dangerous thing. All the good will Roma engendered after falling to Milan was dashed on one rainy afternoon in Toscana. With a gimme against Florentia San Gimignano potentially paving Roma's path towards second place a week in advance of a home fixture against Juventus, the ducks were seemingly in a row for Roma to make a major move up the table.
Whether it was the lousy pitch conditions or a bit of hubris, Roma simply failed to show up against Florentia, looking passive and punchless for large swaths of the match. What was supposed to be an easy three points soon turned into a bitter defeat, one that set the stage for the inevitable—another blowout at the hands of Juventus.
All of which brings us to Sunday's home fixture against 11th place Tavagnacco. In a potentially foreboding twist, the spirits have moved the Serie A Femminile results in Roma's favor once more, as FSG once again scored a 2-1 upset, toppling Milan in an early Saturday fixture. Couple that with Fiorentina falling to Juventus later in the day, and Roma once again has the chance to make the top of the table even tighter.
A Roma victory on Sunday against Tavagnacco would push Roma within one point of third place Fiorentina, and with bottom dwellers Orobica and Bari coming up on the docket, the Giallorosse can enter the second half of the schedule on a high note, potentially setting up a tight race for the top two in the spring of 2020.
Reading all the press coming out of Roma, the opportunity the club squandered over the past two weeks has not been lost on Bavagnoli or her players. With a home match against a side that has only scored four goals all season, Roma should be able to win this match walking away, but it might require some tinkering on Bavagnoli's behalf.
With Manuela Giugliano dealing with a strained knee, Bavagnoli will likely have to tweak her midfield a bit, likely starting Giada Greggi, Vanessa Bernauer and Andrine Hegerberg in the middle of the park. Giugliano is the best of that bunch, but Roma shouldn't miss a beat with that new trio—besides, Roma's real problem rests a bit further up the pitch.
Through seven matches, Roma haven't gotten much production from their center forwards. For all the kilometers they've logged, neither Amalie Thestrup nor Lindsey Thomas has posed much of a threat in front of goal, combining for only three goals. Meanwhile, Andressa, a FIFPRO XI shortlisted player, has logged all of 166 minutes this season.
This lack of punch up front was the same problem that plagued Roma's attack last season, as Martina Piemonte was unable to translate her imposing stature into production. Bavagnoli was able to counter this issue last season by leaning on Serturini and Bonfantini to provide the spark in the final third.
Roma's two dynamic wingers are up to their usual tricks so far (though Serturini seems like she'll fall short of last season's goal total), but Bavagnoli's usage (or lack thereof) of Andressa has been confounding. Here is a player that scored 22 goals across two seasons with Barcelona (all comps), including four in the Champions League and was a mainstay for Brazil during the last World Cup cycle, yet she's remained on Roma's bench through the first seven matches—it makes no sense.
With Roma's attack suddenly sputtering, and with Thestrup and Thomas struggling to score consistently, this would seem like the perfect opportunity to integrate Andressa into the squad. She has the CV, the talent and the temperament to provide Roma the spark they so desperately need, she just needs the chance.
There have been more bumps in the road than we expected this season, but that final Champions League spot is still in play. If Roma stand a chance at making it their own, Bavagnoli has to pull out all the stops, she must take advantage of all her new found talent.