Italian recap: McKennie birthday dampened by Juve loss

It was a rough weekend for Italy’s contingent of Americans, with only two of the six taking the field in a pair of tough losses.

Udinese Calcio 3 – 0 Venezia FC

Gianluca Busio made his Serie A debut for Venezia while Tanner Tessmann was an unused substitute for the team, as their rough start to the season continued with a heavy loss to Udinese on Friday.

Venezia head coach Paolo Zanetti opted to hand his newest American arrival the reigns of his team’s midfield from the starting whistle. After struggling in their season opener one week before, the visitors already carved out an early chance in the sixth minute when Thomas Henry slipped a through-ball between the central defenders to Dennis Johnsen, whose attempt from short range was deflected by Udinese keeper Marco Silvestri.

It was Udinese, however, who would nab the go-ahead goal just before the half-hour. Nanuel Molina was given ample space to charge up the left flank unabated to the edge of the penalty area. Halting his run, he coolly chipped a pass to Ignacio Pussetto directly in front of goal, who chested the ball down to his feet and made easy work of his direct shot.

Venezia did manage to recover and hold strong for the subsequent 40 minutes, with Busio even setting up David Okereke for a close-call in the 52nd minute. However, Udinese sealed the victory in the 70th minute, after Togay Arslan’s shot was initially parried by Venezia keeper Luca Lezzerini, directly into position for Gerard Deulofeu to tuck away for the 2-0 lead.

The hosts kept the pressure on, and added an exclamation point to the win three minutes into added time. A turnover in their own half left the Venezia defense in disarray, allowing Jens Stryger Larsen to feed Molina’s run into the area for an easy finish.

With neither Busio nor Tessmann having been selected by USA national team coach Gregg Berhalter for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, they will have two weeks to regroup with their new teammates during the international break before facing fellow promoted side FC Empoli.

Juventus FC 0 – 1 Empoli FC

There was little festive spirit for Weston McKennie’s 23rd birthday celebration on Saturday, as Juventus extended their season-opening winless streak to two games in an embarrassing home loss to FC Empoli.

Juventus was still reeling from the shock transfer of their star forward Christiano Ronaldo back to Manchester United the day before, and the team indeed looked out of sorts when they took the field for their home opener.

While Federico Chiesa nearly created magic out of nothing in the fourth minute and again seven minutes later with a pair of darting runs ending in shots that tested Empoli keeper Guglielmo Vicario, Empoli were celebrating the lead after barely 20 minutes had been played.

Filippo Bandinelli’s pass from the end-line found Nedim Bajrami on the turn on the left side of the six-yard box. His attempt was blocked by a Juve defender, but landed in perfect position for Leonardo Mancuso settle it with one touch, and slap it away with his second for the 1-0 lead.

With Juve’s midfield failing to stamp their authority onto the game, head coach Massimiliano Allegri pulled McKennie at the half in favor of Alvaro Morata. This, however did little to alleviate an overall stagnation of the team’s performance.

Not even the the 66th-minute introduction of Euro 2020 hero Manuel Locatelli could turn around their fortunes, with Empoli hanging on for the surprise win.

McKennie will immediately fly over the Atlantic to join his international teammates for a pair of World Cup qualifying games. Following the break, Juventus will be back in action with a daunting visit to Napoli.


Bryan Reynolds was an unused substitute for AS Roma in their commanding 4-0 road win over US Salernitana on Sunday afternoon. Having not been selected for international duty, the defender will have a two-week break until Roma’s next game against Sassuolo.

Andrija Novakovich has returned to training for Frosinone after missing the first part of the season due to injury, however was not in their gameday squad on Saturday for their 2-0 road win over LR Vicenza. He will have his next chance to make his first appearance of the season after the international break when they host Perugia.

New Ascoli arrival Giuseppe Barone was not in the team’s squad for their 3-2 road win over Perugia on Saturday. He will have nearly two weeks to acclimatize with his new teammates before their visit to Como.

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