Weston McKennie was the only American to take the field in Italy’s midweek round of Serie A games, helping Juventus to salvage a point amidst a chaotic day of cancellations and forfeitures.
Juventus 1 – 1 Napoli
In one of the six Serie A games to go forward on Thursday, Weston McKennie played the full 90 minutes for Juventus, and did his part to set up Federico Chiesa’s second-half equalizer in their draw against Napoli.
The status of this undisputed highlight matchup of the midweek round was heavily in question throughout the week due to the explosion of Covid cases in Italy and amongst Serie A teams, however unlike four of the games earlier in the day, did start as planned at the opening whistle.
McKennie was handed the start by head coach Massimiliano Allegri on the right side of a three-man midfield, alongside usual partners Manuel Locatelli and Adriaen Rabiot, and was an active all-around nuisance to his Napoli counterparts, with three shots and two interceptions.
Already in the fourth minute, the American nearly put the hosts ahead when he broke free to get his head on an outswinging corner with no defenders in his way, however his attempt to finesse the ball inside the left upright was just a bit wide.
Napoli were sure to punish this wastefulness, jumping to the lead at the halfway point of the first half.
Future Toronto player Lorenzo Insigne connected with Matteo Politano inside the area with a long crossfield ball from the left flank, who held possession long enough to allow Dries Mertens drift into position. The Belgian veteran advanced a couple steps and unleashed a low shot that took a slight deflection off the fingertips of Wojceich Szczesny, and past Matthijs de Ligt into the Juventus goal for the 1-0 lead.
Juventus struggled to create danger following the blow, but were fortunate to equalize five minutes into the second half thanks to the rugged play of McKennie and an opportunistic shot by Chiesa, playing in his first game since a November injury.
The American ran onto a long through-ball and battled with his marking defender to keep possession as he advanced towards the endline, before lofting a backwards cross towards Alvaro Morata a the penalty spot. The ball was headed back by defender Amir Rrahmani, however it landed at the foot of Chiesa, who needed one touch to settle before striking his low shot just inside the left post to pull even.
Following the goal, both teams seemed to run out of gas, and could only manage slight shifts in momentum, without creating any sustained forward drive that was able to break down their respective opponent.
In the end, both were forced to settle for a point, doing little to help or hurt their positions in the standings.
Juventus finish the round still in fifth place, three points behind Atalanta who now have a game in hand. They are scheduled to return to the field on Sunday, with a visit to Roma.
Gianluca Busio was named to Venezia’s starting lineup on their visit to Salernitana on Thursday, however the game was ultimately abandoned after the hosts were forbidden to take the field by local health authorities. Tanner Tessmann, who is serving a suspension for a red card, did not suit up for the game.
Bryan Reynolds did not suit up for AS Roma during a pathetic 3-1 loss at AC Milan which dropped them out of the European places. The American is heavily rumored to be headed out of Italy on a loan for the rest of the season.