Tuesday, September 4
I heard back from the American Embassy regarding my complaint on McGuire.
It does appear as though I was on their radar screen before today, which was surprising. My position as the only American managing an Italian football club made the higher-ups in Rome take notice.
You never know what sort of person is going to make a stupid statement or worse yet, try something equally stupid.
So they know where I am and really, I hope they aren’t too aware of what I’m doing. That sort of knowledge is a bit nerve-wracking for me. But you never know – I may need their help sooner rather than later.
They did ask for copies of the correspondence I considered threatening, and I sent it along. I’m not thrilled about the idea of strangers getting the lowdown on my relationship with Kate, but I freely showed her letter to Patty at dinner last week so depending on who sees the information, I guess I can live with it.
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But tonight was all business. I watched Rovigo video and put together the team sheet I want to see.
Muzzi needs to be on it. His absence was keenly felt at Sassuolo and when he is in the match he often draws man-marking due to his wonderful ability to strike a ball.
That opens up the pitch for his partner, and if I use Roberto as a target striker, Varricchio seems to be able to play off him well. This is part of learning my team, and I have to pick that up sooner rather than later.
His dead leg appears to be back to normal and he will go back into the side. As punchless as we were against Sassuolo, it seems obvious to me that he needs to regain his place.
Music played well again on the left side of midfield so he will remain in the side. He was about the only consistent threat we had, in fact, with the exception of Baú’s moment where he drew the penalty. So I told Vedin he should plan on playing again, and he was pleased to hear it.
He is determined, more so in fact than even Baú or Crovari, players I consider to be professionals. Paz is that way too, which is what I had hoped he would be when I signed him. Among the other new players, Sacchetti is fitting in well and his quiet leadership is just what I hoped he’d provide in addition to excellent man-marking skills.
There are advantages to having a veteran squad, such as short-term toughness. But to grow we need to get younger and I am starting already to turn my thoughts toward the January window, when we will look to bring in players for the longer-term on expiring contracts.
So today was one hundred percent football. And that was just fine with me.
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Wednesday, September 5
Rovigo v Padova – Serie C1A
I am very pleased with the squad tonight. We rebounded as well as I could have hoped, and even though we had another missed penalty tonight, it didn’t hurt us as we coasted to a very nice away win that has moved us to fifth in the table.
Just about all the changes to the side I made worked out, which has taught me a valuable lesson about application. I was “locked in” to this match and I think the results were plainly visible in the side.
Of course, the players are the ones who have to play and they did that to a much higher level than on Sunday. Positionally we were much better and it showed all the way through the ninety minutes. When we are structurally sound, the 4-1-3-2 is a fluid formation, very good in transition and able to exploit a defensive weakness with pace and passing skill.
It was a much, much better effort, but I again repeat myself. This is the kind of message I would rather repeat.
We got on the coach at Euganeo at 3:00 for the 7:30 kickoff and had a relaxed trip south to Rovigo. When the coach stopped outside the Stadio Francesco Gabrielli, I stepped to the front of the aisle and spoke quickly.
“Remember your assignments and remember how Sunday felt,” I said. “Let it show through in your play. This is a match you can win and I’ll be looking for better than I saw on Sunday. Let’s go have a good warmup and get on the match early.”
With that I turned around and led my team off the bus. From that moment, my players were as locked in as I was and that was a great thing to see.
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Again, we played before a Serie C crowd, which is to say it was small. Just 2,971 showed up and of those, about 300 were traveling fans. And the cities are only thirty miles apart.
Matches like tonight might help us draw a few more supporters, though. Muzzi came through in the first half hour, netting on 28 minutes nearly by accident to get us on top.
Music started the play with a sharp move down the left touchline. When he got to the top of the 18-yard box, still along the touchline, he lofted a ball toward the middle that was actually intended for Varricchio.
Massimiliano was covered by a defender, so he played a terrific dummy right into the path of the onrushing Muzzi, who had slipped past the other central defender on his right. Too late, keeper Igor Massigia saw the danger and raced to cut down the angle, but by then it was too late. Muzzi brought the ball to control with an excellent right-footed first touch, and his second touch slotted the ball past Massigia on his left to get us 1-nil to the good.
It was a heady play by three veterans and I knew it. I reacted with some emotion, thrusting my fists into the air and letting the bench see that the boss was quite pleased indeed. The reaction was good, and the energy we saw from that point on was markedly better than it had been Sunday.
That score held to halftime and we had given Rovigo only one good chance in the entire half. In all, it was a four-star road performance and I communicated my pleasure to the players as they sat for the halftime team talk.
“Take the three points. They’re out there for you,” I urged them. “This is so much better than Sunday I can’t even describe it. Work your lanes, stay positionally strong and see what strong play will get you. This is there for you tonight. Make it happen.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see the team then buck up their ideas in the second half. We retained our shape in a much better way than on Sunday and it was actually quite pleasing to watch.
De Cristofaris, who has been struggling with fitness in training since his loan from Lazio, did get a chance to play today and started the work on our second goal from a corner. He put a useful ball into the box and found Muzzi at Massiggia’s right post. Roberto shot the ball and cranked it right off defender Matteo Rossi’s leg. It changed direction (the ball, not Rossi’s leg) and flew past Massiggia for an own goal on 57 minutes to make it 2-0.
The two-goal breathing space was quite welcome, especially since its scoring made Rovigo come to us instead of the other way around. The next fifteen minutes were plenty spicy and finally we snapped, as Fabio Ceccarelli’s sharply angled shot flew past Orlandoni on 72 minutes to get the home side onto the scoreboard.
Their crowd then got into the match and I pulled back into the flat 4-4-2 to give us a wider presence across the midfield. I wasn’t yet ready to drop a striker, though, and my patience was rewarded thanks to an incisive counterattack four minutes from time.
Muzzi and Baú worked a wall pass to perfection on the right side of the penalty area and Rossi, who had a torrid game, had no choice but to haul down Eder to prevent a goal. The penalty was correctly given and Baú stepped up looking for redemption.
This time, he didn’t hit the bar. This time, he slammed his shot straight into Massiggia’s chest.
His momentary look of shock was abated when the ball came directly back to him, and he slotted the rebound home past the stunned keeper for our third and final goal.
Baú had scored, but missing two consecutive penalties can tell on the confidence. I was very glad to see Eder pick up the goal, even if it did come on the second bite of the cherry. Goals are goals.
The third goal allowed me to change to 4-5-1 for the remaining few minutes and to get Muzzi a well-deserved rest for a match very well played. I pulled him and extended my hand as he neared the bench.
“Well done, big man,” I said, using the American euphemism, and he gave me a puzzled look. I re-translated. “Well done, Don Muzzi,” I smiled, and he laughed at my hackneyed use of the phrase as he walked to the bench.
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“Better in every respect,” I told the media afterward. I then focused on Stefano Emiliani, the reporter who had asked me about changing formation on Sunday.
“Stefano, I know you’re a 4-4-2 man,” I tweaked. “Was that good enough for you? Eighteen scoring attempts tonight away from home, was that enough?”
He took my gentle barb with good grace. “They had never seen a junk formation before, I suppose,” he said with a smile and we both knew our true feelings were in the middle. 4-1-3-2 is not a junk formation and I know Stefano understands his football. But I had made my point – when these players play their formation, they are pretty good.
“I’m pleased with our ninety-minute effort,” I stated. “They made a very good play to earn a very good goal late in the match but on the whole I can’t find a lot of fault with how we played. I am delighted with how we rebounded from Sunday’s disappointment and I’m hopeful we can keep up our positive momentum heading into Saturday’s match with Manfredonia at Euganeo.”
And with that, I got on a motor coach containing much happier players for the trip home.
Rovigo 1-3 Padova
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