When I sat down to right this same preview a year ago, I found myself in an odd place, attempting to craft a coherent narrative for a team that had never existed. I didn't really know the players, the coach or the league, but I knew that this was something fresh, something exciting, and something to which I was inextricably drawn. And as the weeks rolled on, I became more familiar with the names and faces, the triumphs and the pitfalls and before I knew it, it was business as usual.
However, in a strange twist, I find myself in that same boat. The team is no longer new but the expectations that have followed a successful first season and a summer full of significant signings is unlike anything the capital has seen in nearly a decade. Adding the likes of Italy World Cup standout Manuela Giugliano and the FIFPRO XI finalist Andressa has changed Roma from last summer's intriguing curiosity to this year's title threat.
Roma v. Milan: September 15th. 12:30 CET/6:30 EDT. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
While that's all well and good (and certainly exciting) as we all know the games aren't played on paper, and if Roma are truly a title contender in only their second season in existence, then the Serie A Femminile schedule makers are making them prove it early and often. In the season's first two rounds, Roma will face AC Milan and Fiorentina, two of the top three finishers from last season, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Giallorosse's shoulders at such an early stage, but this pressure also presents a tremendous opportunity. Starting with Sunday's visit from Valentina Giacinti and the rest of Milan, Roma have an immediate opportunity to stake their claim on the top of the table.
On this early challenge, Betty Bavagnoli sounded cautiously optimistic:
Milan have changed a lot over the summer, they changed coach as well...They have some very good players and, as always, we will have to show them respect. We will do everything we can to try and start with a win.
It should be a great game, between two sides that want to play the right way and have a lot of desire to achieve something important this season. I think the fans that go to the stadium will enjoy the spectacle.
Chief among those “very good players” to whom Bavagnoli alluded is Valentina Giacinti, the two-time reigning capocannoniere. In her last two seasons, Giacinti has scored 42 goals in only 44 matches for Brescia and then Miilan, and when you pile those on top of the 103 she scored across her five prior seasons, she becomes (quite rightly) the league's biggest and best scoring threat. Needless to say, keeping her out of the area will be priority number one for Roma's defense, so let's hope the chemistry between Allyson Swaby and Federica Di Criscio carries over from last season.
With right back Kaja Erzen serving as the only new defensive addition of note, the back line remains largely unchanged from last season, but the wellspring of optimism surrounding the Giallorosse this season has very little to do with defense.
Giacinti could grab a brace tomorrow and Roma could still weather the storm thanks to the impressive additions made in midfield and attack. With new comers Giguliano and Andrine Hegerberg joining Giada Greggi and Vanessa Bernauer in midfield, Roma should be able to maintain, and make more effective use of, possession this season, as Greggi and Giugliano can create from all over the pitch while Bernauer and Hegerberg are perfect utility players.
With this sheer force of will driving the action forward, the incisive and explosive runs from Agnese Bonfantini, Annamaria Serturini, Andressa and Amalie Thestrup should provide enough goals for Roma to keep up with nearly any side in the league, including Milan.
Roma and Milan squared off twice last season, one a closely contested 2-1 match Milan ultimately won, and the other a 4-1 blowout in which Roma didn't even score a goal of their own. Those results were indicative of the club's comparative quality last season, but as we just mentioned Roma have reloaded this offseason while Milan lost not only their second leading scorer, Daniela Sabatino, but their coach, legendary Carolina Morace.
Things are definitely different this time around, and if Roma can put Giacinti in a bottle and let Serturini and/or Bonfantini loose in the final third, then the entire tenor of this season can change in an instant.
If you've been hesitant to jump aboard this bandwagon, delay no more—this Roma are no reclamation project, they're legit.
Sky Sport is (I believe) broadcasting the league in its entirety this season (which is amazing) but fortunately for us, Roma are still showing their matches via social media.