New York Soccer: Gianluigi Buffon

Rapid Reaction: Juventus 1, Club America 0

July, 26, 2011
Neither lightning nor rain nor wind nor gloom of night stayed these clubs from the swift completion of their appointed World Football Challenge rounds, but only Italian powerhouse Juventus left Citi Field with a positive result in a 1-0 win over Mexican side Club America on Tuesday evening.

Following a 37-minute delay due to heavy rains and lightning in the 31st minute, Juve forward Cristian Pasquato fired a bold strike from the top left corner of the penalty area in the 42nd minute that beat Aguilas 'keeper Armando Navarrete -- who inadvertently set up the Juve shot by punching a ball in the six-yard-box towards Pasquato -- for the game's only goal.

Pasquato's goal occurred despite possession woes for the Bianconeri, who endured a 42%-to-58% possession gap at the half and struggled to string multiple passes through a taut Club America defensive line. Juventus closed that gap in the second half, but struggled all evening to create much pressure in the attacking third.

The Gang's Mostly Here. Citi Field did not come close to the near-sellout crowd that showed up for the Greece-Ecuador friendly in June, but the World Football Challenge match packed the house with 20,859 paying and vocal customers that produced an even split between Juventus and Club America supporters.

The supporters largely stuck around after the rain delay and scored their chants with blaring horns and vuvuzelas for the full 90 in what may be the last soccer match at Citi Field this summer, but hardly the last in the foreseeable future.

Play of the Game: Buffon's Save on Benitez. Club America dominated in its defensive efforts against the 27-time Italian champions in the first half, but struggled to find the finishing touch for an equalizer.

In a last gasp before the whistle, Club America forward Cristian Benitez fired a shot from point-blank range in the Juventus penalty area, only to have Bianconeri 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon parry it wide left and end the attack. Club America manager Carlos Reinoso executed a mass substitution after halftime -- including a change in net from Navarrete to Hugo Gonzalez -- which did not create as good a chance as the one snubbed by Buffon.

Going the Distance. Benitez had changed the majority of his starting XI by the 58th minute, but first-year Juventus coach Antonio Conte elected to keep his starting lineup intact until the 73rd minute when Bianconeri captain Alessandro Del Piero along with Paolo De Ceglie, Andrea Pirlo, Milos Krasic, and Alessandro Matri called it a night.

The extra time against the Club America subs helped the Juventus possession game a smidge, but did little to restrain an Aguilas attack that simply failed to convert on its numerous chances.

All Wet. The makeshift pitch at Citi Field largely held up despite the quick turnover time following the New York Mets' 5-4 matinee loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday as well as the rain on Monday and in-game rain delay. The ball moved at a sluggish pace at times when going over the sodded-over stretch between second and third base -- and despite no tarps covering the field during the rain delay -- but it did not appear to hamper the run of play in any meaningful way.

Juventus will now prepare for its U.S. Tour and World Football Classic finale against Chivas de Guadalajara at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday, July 28. Club America will have a bit more time to prepare for its WFC final match against the UEFA Champions League title-touting side of F.C. Barcelona at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on August 6.

W2W4: Juventus v. Club América at Citi Field

July, 26, 2011
After producing a packed house in June for the first professional soccer match in the building's history, what can Citi Field do for an encore?

That's the question as Serie A staple Juventus pays a visit to the home of the New York Mets on Tuesday to kick off against fabled Mexican side Club America (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes). The famed soccer sides will clash as part of the World Football Challenge, an exhibition soccer tournament hosted by Soccer United Marketing that features some of the most prominent clubs in Europe and North America.

Juventus will look to notch its first win in WFC play after dropping a 2-1 result to Primeira Liga side Sporting Clube de Portugal at BMO Field in Toronto. The Bianconeri personnel provide a major artery for the Italian national team, which includes longtime Azzuri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and strikers Alessandro Del Piero -- who scored the only goal for Juvenus against Sporting CP with a nice chip from the corner of the penalty area -- and Luca Toni among others.

Club America also seeks a boost in form after falling in a 2-0 shutout to Manchester City of the English Premier League at AT&T Park on July 16. Aguilas legend Carlos Reinoso will rely on Argentine playmaker Daniel Montenegro and US international Edgar Castillo along with a collection of Mexican national team stalwarts to make a competitive match for their Italian opponents.

Key Matchup: Supporters vs. the Turnstiles. June's international friendly between Greece and Ecuador surpassed expectations from a support standpoint as 39,656 fans showed up to cheer on the first professional soccer match in Queens since 2003, making it the second-highest attended event at Citi Field this season (since surpassed by the Subway Series).

It's an open secret that Fred Wilpon, the patriarch of the Mets ownership group that also includes his son Jeff Wilpon, has held conversations with Major League Soccer about bringing another expansion club to New York. Tonight's match, while still a friendly at heart, should provide a sterner test as the marketing gurus were unable to key in on national pride to move tickets for the match.

Both Juventus and Club America sport strong supporters groups, but both clubs are polarizing in their respective soccer spheres. Any gaps in ticket sales would need to be made up by casual fans or, more importantly, American fans. The percentage of those that show up could prove a bellwether for the Wilpons' chances at soccer success in the near future.

Back from the Brink. Juventus may look for an early statement game in America's biggest city to quell concerns about the club's recent slide to mediocrity in recent seasons. The Bianconeri have finished seventh in the Serie A table for two consecutive seasons, culminating in the winningest Serie A club of all time being unable to qualify for both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League after the 2010-11 season.

New manager Antonio Conte, the club's fifth manager in two years, has a mandate to return the club to the respectability it lost after former Bianconeri general manager Lucianio Moggi engulfed his club in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal in 2006. Conte has overhauled his roster by bringing in the likes of Pirlo and former Bayern Leverkusen midfielder Arturo Vidal while conversations continue about a possible acquisiton of Villareal striker and New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi.

Second Verse, Same as the First. The Bianconeri are not the only club looking for a return to respectability as Club America looks to regain its form after finishing sixth in the Mexican Primera Division and exiting prematurely from the 2011 Copa Libertadores in the Round of 16.

Reinoso, who returned for his third coaching tenure with the Aguilas after replacing Manuel Lapuente, is also rebuilding a squad that carries the lofty expectations that come with being the second winningest Primera Ligue side after Chivas de Guadalajara.

Priority one for Reinoso is preparing the replacement for longtime goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who departed for Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio on July 4. Man City did not test potential replacement Armando Navarrete much in their WFC tilt, but Leonín Pineda waits in the wings if Navarrete should falter as the Aguilas prepare for the Apertura season.