Sometimes I question the value of social media. Sure, its the best means by which to keep current on meme culture, and it's a fairly reliable way to find movie spoilers (you mean, Bruce Willis’ character was dead the whole time!? M. Night, you genius!), but it can also have a deleterious effect on one's psyche in any number ways, subtle or otherwise, but today it was my savior for several reasons.
See, I'm on vacation this week (not going anywhere, but doing copious amounts of sleeping) and today I decided to be productive. I'm not what experts would call "clean,” not that I'm a disheveled hoarder, but my house has a lot of, shall we say, shit laying around: amazon boxes, foam rollers, sneakers, jackets etc.
So, on this dreary day, I decided to dedicate myself to cleaning this mess up; vacuums, sponges, bleach, the whole nine yards. And in the middle of it, I decided to take a quick break and see what was going on in the Romaverse; like I said, I hate cleaning, so I'll take any excuse to stop.
And in the middle of this break, I happened to catch a glimpse of the live stream of the Primavera's Scudetto-deciding match against Inter Milan. I don't necessarily keep weekly tabs on any of the youth teams, but a final is a final, right? However, down 2-0 early in the second half, I sort of just shrugged my shoulders and got back to work.
Fast forward ten minutes (again, hate cleaning), I noticed they stormed all the way back to level the match at two, eventually forcing the game into extra time, which then went to penalties; ten rounds in fact.
Due to a variety of reasons (time mostly) we don't dedicate a ton of coverage to Roma's various youth teams, but in the middle of yet another break I couldn't help but notice a familiar face on Roma's Primavera team, Camilla Labate.
Roma's soon to be 20 year old defender had garnered a smattering of minutes for Betty Bavagnoli's senior side this season, logging nearly 500 minutes of action largely as a fullback, but here she was leading the charge for the Primavera side as a playmaking/give-her-the-damn-ball #10.
In their semifinal round Labate scored the winning penalty, pushing the Giallorosse to today's final against Inter, but today she was, quite simply, the best player on the pitch. With her side trailing 2-0 after nearly 70 minutes, Labate had a hand in both Roma's come from behind goals.
This play was absolute perfection. Notice how, once #16 receives the ball and turns inwards, Labate immediately breaks towards the goal. And here is where her intuition comes into play. She already has the defender beat on her (meaning the defender) outside shoulder, but once the keeper comes off her line, Labate breaks off her run and turns slightly inwards, taking advantage of the defender who now has her back to the ball.
From there, Labate takes a touch and explodes past the keeper, setting herself up with a gimme goal. Labate's timing, intuition and agility were on full display there.
Labate would swap roles on the equalizer, serving as a de facto playmaker rather than the finisher.
It's a shame Labate didn't actually score this one, because her individual effort was even more brilliant. Again, take note of her situational and positional awareness; as soon as she receives the ball she senses the defender on her back, and rather than shielding the ball and playing it back out (which would have been perfectly acceptable) she takes two touches (with the same foot) and somehow still twists the defender around, creating space for her attempt on goal, forcing the keeper into an awkward save that Vigliucci was able to pounce on.
This was just a sensational move from Labate. In the span of seconds, she received the ball in traffic, shook off a defender with a couple deft touches with the outside of her boot, maintained possession and then, to borrow a basketball term, put herself in the triple threat position: she could have laid it off to streaking attackers on either side or taken the attempt herself.
Unfortunately, Labate's magic couldn't deliver a victory (Roma lost in the 10th round of penalties) but if this performance was any indication, Labate will be forcing Betty Bavagnoli to make some incredibly tough decisions next season.
That kind of touch, that level of intuition, and that sheer amount of skill is wasted at fullback. Labate may have to bide her time playing out of position next season, but I think we can safely add Camilla Labate to Roma's incredibly...incredibly...impressive core of U23 talent.
And she keeps playing like she did today, she may be the best of the lot.