NEW YORK — Like a house under construction. Distant are the glory days of one of Italy’s most glamorous clubs when the Juventus manager resorts to a metaphor like that one to describe his squad.
“We need to build a house and we’re just at the foundation and this needs to be made clear,” manager Antonio Conte said following his team’s 1-0 win over Mexico’s Club América in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge. “But I have to make clear that I have workers. We’re speaking about homes and I have workers that believe in what they’re doing and have a desire to build this house.”
Conte received a good shift from his workers on the Tuesday night shift at Citi Field, as the first-year Juve head coach ran his starting lineup for 73 minutes before resorting to his first substitution. That group featured a 22-year-old Juventus youth product, Cristian Pasquato, who left his mark on the game with a stunning display of technique on his 42nd-minute goal that decided the match.
Pasquato was wandering in anonymity out on the left wing before pouncing on a poor clearance by América goalkeeper Armando Navarrete with a side volley that found the top corner. It was a flare of hope that perhaps this could be his year to stick after being loaned out to three different lower-division Italian teams in recent years.
“He’s a kid that surely has a specific role and he is a type of player that I need on the flanks,” Conte said. “In this moment, we are lacking in that zone. And so I decided to take Pasquato. … He is a player that in this moment is at Juventus and I’m holding on to him tightly because we have few players on the flanks. But Pasquato today didn’t look like a Primavera [youth team] player to me.”
But the hardest worker on the construction team for Juventus on the night may have been offseason acquisition Stephan Lichtsteiner. The Swiss right back made countless overlapping runs, delivering the cross that Navarrete could not handle on the decisive goal. His industry and hard work didn’t go unnoticed by Conte.
“Good showing,” Conte said. “There is still a lot to do defensively and he has to improve in holding the ball and moving the ball. … But we know we’ve done well with this latest acquisition, Lichtsteiner.”
Like Lichtsteiner’s performance on Tuesday night, Juventus were clearly not a fine-tuned operation, but there was desire and effort that are exactly the building blocks that Conte referenced.
“I have the maximum willingness from the players to carry out what we’re seeking to do,” Conte said. “At times they succeed, and at times not. But they’ve only been at this 20 days and I like the application. There is a lot to improve. We’re only at the beginning. There is a lot to do. But the thing that comforts me is to see their willingness because that’s the important thing.”
And so the hard work will continue in Juventus’ camp and it’s not just the physical, technical and tactical labor. Conte pointed out how the team is already studying hard in video sessions as they break down game situations and prepare how they should react.
Then there’s the work that still needs to be done on the transfer market. The name of American Giuseppe Rossi, who recently wore the captain’s armband for the Italian national team, came up in Conte’s postgame press conference on Tuesday night, echoing the rumors billowing in the sports dailies back home.
“This is a team that is under construction and a team that needs various players,” Conte said. “We know very well what we need to do as an organization on the market, and we will intervene the way we need to do. We know we have to intervene. … To be competitive and try to battle for the title, we need additions, various additions.”
This building is really only at its foundations.