KENYA BROWN - Monday, September 21, 2020
Weston McKennie made a strong start to his adventure in Serie A as he helped Juventus claim its first three points of the season with a comfortable win over Sampdoria.
Juventus 3-0 Sampdoria
Juventus' quest to win a 10th consecutive Scudetto got off to a good start with a solid win over Sampdoria at the Allianz Stadium thanks to goals from Dejan Kulusevski, Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was a day of debuts for the Bianconeri as Andrea Pirlo coached his first official game. And the former midfield maestro would put McKennie in the starting line-up as he went with a 3-4-3 formation, partnering the 22-year-old in central midfield with French international Adrien Rabiot.
McKennie adjusted to the game over time and played well throughout as he went the distance which showed exactly why Pirlo was highly in demand of his signing during the summer. It wasn't a perfect game, but he kept everything simple and showed how much of an influence he can be on the team as he goes from box to box.
The No. 14 showed how much he can help in the attack just five minutes into the contest when he could have take a shot at goal, but he saw a better option as he set Danilo for a chance, but the Brazilian's shot went just didn't dip enough as it sailed over the crossbar.
The host would open the scoring in the 13th minute when the Sampdoria back line put a halt to Ronaldo's attack in the area, leaving the loose ball for fellow debutante Dejan Kulusevski to pounce on, and he sent a low curling shot past the goalkeeper.
McKennie would make his presence known again as he made a key play in the 23rd minute when he made an excellent interception of a pass from a Sampdoria play that launched a counter-attack for Juventus. And they came close to scoring, but Cristiano Ronaldo's effort crashed off the frame.
The former Schalke man was not afraid to a few chances himself at the goal as he took an attempt just before halftime with a strike well outside the area that went over the bar.
Juventus was in complete control of the game as both sides came out for the second half. It could have been a much wider scoreline if they had a bit more luck in putting away the attempts they had on the opposition's goal.
However, the goals would come in the latter part of the second half to give the defending champions the cushion they needed.
McKennie once again was involved as he came close to scoring his first Serie A goal. In the crowd to try and get contact with the ball from a corner kick, he would turn to see the loose ball in the six-yard box. His shot was saved by Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero, but the rebound would fall into the path of Leonardo Bonucci as he slammed it home in the 78th minute.
The Texas midfielder was then denied his best chance at opening his scoring account in the 84th minute. Another loose ball in the area allowed him to take a powerful shot at goal. Audero would get his hands on the ball, but not enough to catch it. The Italian goalkeeper was then forced to clear the danger with his foot, but Juventus players had their hands up to protest that the ball had crossed over the goal line.
However, the referee declared it was not a goal and replays afterward showed that the ball missed crossing over the line entirely by a hair.
Ronald would put the game to bed in the 88th minute as he finally got the goal he was looking for after several earlier attempts.
A thorough performance by Juventus, and on an individual level, McKennie can walk away feeling good about how he played.
Pirlo commented at the end of the game on the young American's performance.
"McKennie arrived with a few more days of preparation and did well. He made a mistake in the setting phase but it was the first and you can forgive," he said.
McKennie will now try to earn another start the coming weekend as Juventus head to the Italian capital to face Roma.