New England Soccer Today

Opinion: Revs and Juventus share similar plight

It’s the final home game of the regular season and the New England Revolution have had the better of the play for the first half hour of the match.  Chris Tierney sends a lofty cross forward that Shalrie Joseph runs onto, heads past the keeper, and slots into an open net to give the Revolution a 1-0 lead.  The Revolution veteran’s fourth goal of the season holds up and propels the team to its 9th victory of the season.

The next day, all the way across the Atlantic in Italy, Juventus is playing a regular season match against Lecce.  In the 82nd minute of play, another veteran, Alessandro Del Piero scores Juventus’ fourth goal of the game as the side emerges victorious in high-scoring fashion.

The link may be tenuous, but it’s a starting point to which Juventus and the Revolution have alot more in common than goalscoring veterans.  Even by taking into account the fact that Juventus plays in the Serie A, a league superior to that of MLS, these two teams have been more alike than different in the past few seasons.

Sure, Kheli Dube is no Fabio Quagliarella.  Kevin Alston is no Georgio Chiellini.  Shalrie Joseph is no Alberto Aquilani.  Those are givens. But upon closer examination, the situations facing Juventus and the Revolution are quite similar.

Let’s start with the current state of thse clubs. Both are in the midst of a rebuilding period after years of great success. And both are looking ahead to recapture the glory that’s eluded them in recent seasons.

It’s been a downward spiral for Juve since the 2006 refereeing scandals forced the team to relegate to second division Italian Serie B, forcing many of the team’s players to pursue higher-profile careers in Spain, Germany, and elsewhere. 

Following the 2006 World Cup, Juventus lost Fabio Cannavaro, who at the time was arguably the best defender in the world.  The exodus continued as Ferreira Emerson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Viera, Ruben Oliveira, and Gianluca Zambrotta all left shortly thereafter.

Juventus’ core of the past five years had departed en masse before you could say “Ciao.”

Fast forward to 2007. A familiar storyline unfolds across the Atlantic. Clint Dempsey had left for Europe in January. Jose Cancela was let go the previous autumn. And as the Revolution walked off the RFK Stadium pitch following another MLS Cup defeat in November, Andy Dorman, Avery John, and Pat Noonan would all wave goodbye to the cluster of New England supporters for the last time.

It’s evident that the Revolution – who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001- haven’t recovered from losing the core group of stars that made the team successful for nearly half the decade. And this is why they should take a page out Juventus’ “Guide to Rebuilding a Franchise.”

Sunday’s match- where Juventus defeated Lecce 4-0- was Juve’s third win of the season.  The result put Juventus 5th place in the Italian Serie A, just 5 points behind first place Inter, whom they tied two weeks ago.  It may not be Juve’s most successful start in their history- a history that includes winning 51 official competitions- but it is proof that Juve is well on its way to regaining its former stature.

The seasons between 2006-07 and 2009-10 were considered failures for Juventus.  The team struggled to find a playmaker, or put 11 players on the field that were young, dynamic, and capable of playing well as a group. It was a painful stretch for Juve supporters.

But this summer, Juventus decided it was time for a makeover.  They sent their playmaker, Diego, back to Germany. Mauro Camoranesi, Fabio Cannavaro (who returned to the club from Real Madrid last season), and Christian Poulsen were shown the exit. In the wake of these departures, Juventus brought in a young defender named Leonardo Bonucci from Bari and added Fabio Quagliarella from Napoli and Milos Krasic from CSKA Moscow as well.

The results, thus far, have been impressive.  Even with Juventus going 3-2-2 to start off the season, the club has scored 16 times in just seven games – the most goals scored by any team in Serie A as of now.

The Revolution’s seasons between the 2008 and 2010 have also been considered failures.  In 2008 and 2009, the team barely made the playoffs and failed to defend well. This season, the team has so far let in 48 goals and was booted out of playoff contention before October. The reason? They lacked a proven set of playmakers and marksmen to compete.

And that’s the same problem Juventus had.  Although Juventus may be in a tougher league, the bottom line remains: you need effective attackers, midfielders, and defenders to have any chance of lifting a trophy.

Here’s what Juventus did: they purged their roster of high-salary, low-impact players. There’s little doubt that, without naming names, a few of these type of players have roster spots on the Revolution.

Then, Juventus then brought in a slew of young players that could be cultivated into a bonafide starting XI.  Likewise, the Revolution, who already have a host of young players already on their roster, are in a position to do the same. They have the talent.  Now, it’s time to test them – the same way Juventus has done with Leonardo Bonucci.

Talent graces the world in all shapes and forms – Italy isn’t the only country that knows how to play soccer.  The Revolution ought to look at Juventus as their model.  Although it’s nearly impossible to construct a championship-caliber club from scratch in a single off-season, positive steps can be taken now in order to expedite the process. 

The fact of the matter is that you can look at what Juventus has done and apply it anywhere. The talent is out there, ready to be harvested. The Revolution would be wise to follow Juventus’s lead and learn how to find it.

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