Tanner Tessmann and the rest of his American teammates at Venezia saw their slim chance for promotion back to Serie A take a stumble at the first hurdle, after they were knocked out of the playoffs by Cagliari on Saturday.
Cagliari 2 – 1 Venezia FC
After a strong run in the final phase of the season allowed the team to sneak into the playoff spots, a run through the post-season promotion playoff for another shot at Italy’s top flight was seemingly at grasp for Venezia.
Against their first opponents Cagliari in a single-game elimination, Tessmann started once again in the center of the team’s midfield, and played from whistle to whistle. While taking no shots and setting up no chances for teammates, he still completed 81% of his 59 passing attempts, was on-target with five out of nine long balls, made 11 recoveries, and won one out of two duels, while committing no fouls.
Of his fellow Americans on the Venezia’s first-team squad, Gianluca Busio stayed glued to the team’s bench, while Andrija Novakovich played the final seven minutes of regulation, taking one shot and setting up one chance.
Peruvian striker Gianluca Lapadula was the hero of the night as the 33 year-old tried to engineer his own return to Serie A in the last years of his career.
In the 14th minute, a poorly-headed clearance from a Venezia defender fell at the foot of Nahitan Nández on the right side of the visitors’ 18-yard box. He lofted a cross towards the middle, where Lapadula rose above his two marking defenders to strike a header that flew in just past the left upright.
Four minutes later, he looked to have given Cagliari an unassailable lead after lurking just beyond the top edge of the area, where he was able to recover the ball following Andrea Carboni’s botched clearance. With only Venezia keeper Jesse Joronen in front of goal, he aimed his low shot to the lower right corner, putting his team up by a 2-0 margin.
Cagliari keeper Boris Radunovic was tested a couple times before the break, but came up big on both attempts to preserve the lead.
Then in the 52nd minute, Tessmann hit Mikael Egill Ellertsson with a short pass from the center circle, that allowed the Icelandic international to storm forward up the left flank. He advanced to the left edge of the penalty area and fired a cross towards the middle, that Nicholas Pierini headed in to cut the lead to a single goal.
Despite the hosts mostly holding strong after the goal, Venezia were not without their chances, as goal-machine Joel Pohjanpalo did force Radunovic into a fine save.
However, despite Venezia hed coach Paolo Vanoli throwing everything at their opponents in the final minutes, including the late entry of Novakovich, they were unable to get an equalizer to throw the game into added time.
The loss ends Venezia’s season in disappointing fashion, after a relegation struggle being their focus until recently, their late flurry does give hope that next season will be a more direct run toward promotion.
The three Americans now enter a summer of uncertainty, where Tessmann will likely have suitors, and also has an outside shot at a Gold Cup inclusion with the USMNT.
Sergiño Dest played no role on Sunday for AC Milan’s 1-0 win over Juventus. Persistent rumors of a FC Union Berlin transfer still continue to swirl, which if true, would give the USMNT starter Champions League games in the upcoming season.