By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jul 28, 2023) US Soccer Players – Christian Pulisic’s move to AC Milan and Timothy Weah joining USMNT teammate Weston McKennie at Juventus added an extra element to Thursday’s Soccer Champions Tour game at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
AC Milan finished fourth in Serie A last season, ensuring that the Rossoneri enter the Champions League in the group stage. Milan reached the semifinals of last year’s Champions League. The signings of Pulisic, his Chelsea teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and a handful of other reinforcements this summer is about giving AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli the personnel to push the club further on multiple fronts.
Pioli advocated for the signing of Pulisic, a signal that Pulisic will play a crucial part in the attack for AC Milan this season. Pulisic joins an attacking group that includes rising Portuguese star Rafael Leao and former Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, one of several familiar faces Pulisic will play with this season.
The game in Carson was Pulisic’s third match in AC Milan colors and his second during the American tour. He debuted for his new club on July 20th, when Milan played a closed-doors friendly against a semi-professional team before making its way stateside. Pulisic showed off his attacking abilities against that Serie D opposition, providing two assists.
Speaking to Sky Sports Italia following that game, Pioli said, “Pulisic is a player. When I say that, I mean that he is someone who knows how to do the right thing at the right time. And when you have someone like him at your disposal, things become easier.”
Pulisic’s first team debut in a match against a top-division opponent came in front of 70,000 fans when AC Milan faced off against Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. AC Milan lost the game 3-2, but Pulisic assisted when Fikayo Tomori headed home his corner kick in the 25th minute. That match didn’t provide a look at what a Pulisic, Leao, Giroud offense might look like at the front of the Milan attack, with both Leao and Giroud entering in the 70th minute when Pulisic exited. The first look at AC Milan’s revamped attack came against Juventus on Thursday night.
It’s fair to say that any version of Juventus vs AC Milan is a tense affair, containing an extra element sometimes missing from friendlies. The game was an introduction to the rivalry for both Pulisic and Weah, a player who moved from Lille in Ligue 1 to join Juventus this season.
As the Italian club with the most league titles, Juventus is never satisfied with anything else. Last season’s 7th-place finish put the club in the UEFA Conference League, where they will enter the play-off round in late August. Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s side will undoubtedly make a run at that trophy. But the quest this season is to get back to the top of the mountain in Italy and collect another scudetto to add to Juventus’s record total.
That should mean an important role for Weah, where his versatility is one of his strongest traits. Allegri’s 3-5-2 is readymade for Weah to play as a wingback, a position he manned for the first time for his new club in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“Last season I played as a winger and it comes very naturally to me, so I concentrated on this, trying to adapt to the defensive aspect as well,” Weah said when he joined his new club. “I’ll play where it’s needed.”
Weston McKennie spent the second half of the 2022-23 season on loan in England with Leeds United, returning to Juventus at the end of the season. He started in the midfield trio on Thursday alongside Manuel Locatelli and Fabio Miretti.
Speaking after the game, Allegri said, “Weston also came back well, he’s in the team and I’m happy with how he’s working and what he’s doing. Weah had a good impact, he’s a good player but above all he’s very intelligent and immediately made himself available.”
Pulisic played just short of an hour before subbing out. Weah and McKennie exited together just a few minutes later. All were on the field for the goals, with Milan taking the lead through Malick Thiaw in the 23rd and Danilo equalizing for Juventus in the 33rd. Olivier Giroud returned the Milan lead in the 39th and Daniel Rogani equalized in the 48th. The game ultimately went to penalties, with Juventus winning 4-3.
“Christian’s fitness is getting better, like everyone else’s in the group,” Pioli said following the game. “We’ve been back working for just two weeks. He’s a flexible and clever player, can play left, right, in behind. He is certainly going to be really important in our attack.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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Photo by Ariana Ruiz – PI via ZUMA Press Wire – ISIPhotos.com