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Fiorentina 2, Milan 0: Taking Our Lumps

The American colloquialism “take your lumps” is rooted in contact sports, meaning to take the physical punishment you may receive within the game. But it also has a connotation of not complaining about the “lumps” you receive, to accept your fate in a sportsmanlike manner. I feel like this best applies to the match today, as we were dealt a heavy blow with a 2-0 loss and the early sending off, too. But all of these things are part of the game, and it’s not always the result that matters the most, it’s how you get up and face the next opponent. What you learn from the experience. Those are the things that will get the longterm results we need this season. So as a team and as fans, we should perhaps focus on taking our lumps.

We want youth? We need to be prepared to take our lumps

What a difference a summer made. With a starting back four with the average age of 22.75, this defense was bound to be different. And it was. Just maybe not in all the ways we wanted it to be. In fact, it was the two ridiculously young center backs that created the chances for both goals for Fiorentina, both for errors that experience typically prevents. And while we were all disappointed, these are the lumps we will have to take if we want to truly develop youth.

Rodrigo Ely started out having a great game. The 21 year-old new father got a yellow in the 9th for a foul, but he kept his head up and worked hard. He put a beautiful ball forward at one point, with breathtaking accuracy, I don’t know any of our former or even current center backs who could have done that. He was great on defense, got forward, good in the air, and so many other good things. But in the 36th, he took down Kalinic from behind, his second bookable offense, and was sent off. He left his teammates on ten men for nearly 60 minutes. And as upset as anyone is about this, you can bet that he is even more upset. And that he will learn.

Preparing to take a free kick that was an excellent chance

But it was too late to save the scoreline today. The impressive Spaniard Marcos Alonso took advantage of the free kick Ely’s foul afforded them and sent a spectacular ball curving just inside the left corner. 1-0 Fiorentina. Again, if this hurt you, think of Ely, I can bet you that he is hurting more. But these are the kinds of mistakes that forge young players and make them better.

His young counterpart, the 20 year-old Alessio Romagnoli took his lump in the 55th, when his foul from behind earned him a yellow, but not just that, because of its location, Valeri awarded Fiorentina a penalty. And rightly so. I cannot even imagine how much anger Romagnoli had at himself when Ilicic stepped up in the 56th and converted that penalty. 2-0 Fiorentina. Again, if it stung for you, imagine the kid. But he will improve, I guarantee it. That moment, in the opening game of Milan’s campaign, will inspire him to be better, to try harder, and to not make mistakes.

Jack fought brilliantly for 90+ minutes

Ironically, the center back who is known for making rash mistakes, Zapata, came on in the 39th after Ely was sent off. And he showed, through his experience, how to have a fantastic game. I was only sad that it was Honda that was sacrificed to make way for him, as it is like pulling the wrong piece out of a Jenga stack. Honda was the best hope of scoring goals – either through creating chances for Serie A newbies Chewie and Adriano, or just plain scoring them. So when Mihajlovic pulled him out of the equation, it seemed our best chances of scoring left with him. But someone had to be sacrificed.

In the midfield, De Jong was epic as usual, Bertolacci worked hard when he wasn’t screaming at Valeri, and Bonaventura was simply a beast. He was all over the place, worked harder than anyone, and his only fault was getting a yellow for dissent for defending Ely when he got his second yellow. What a difference this midfield was from what we have been accustomed to. And yet we still lacked something. But that was probably the man advantage, to be fair. Well, that, and Fiorentina were definitely the better team in this match. Hat’s off to them for a great performance and amazing fans.

He played well enough when he wasn't screaming at the ref 

However, we were not without quality. Diego Lopez kept us in the game once again. He had several spectacular saves, like in the 6th minute, when Ilicic caught him completely off of his line, he had a fantastic one-handed save. Or in the 53rd, back to back amazing saves. But it was still different than last year, when he was the MOTM in practically every game. That was a team of individuals, whereas this team feels more like a collective. And even when the individual errors happened, it was like the team just knit closer together and fought equally hard.

Although I don’t know if it’s just me, but De Sciglio stepped up and had a pretty good game… well, at least on the defensive side. We won’t mention his shooting attempt. But he especially stepped it up when we went down to ten men. In fact, that is something I was incredibly proud of, that the team really kept up the pressure and played with heart for 90 minutes. They could have easily slacked off at any point after Ely was sent off, but they didn’t. They battled to the bitter end.

That never stop fighting even when you're down is why he wears the armband

And the end was bitter. Yet there were sweet elements, too. They also worked as a team. They seemed to have a plan, to know the plan, and to be doing their best to execute it. Even in defeat, there was improvement, even if there was also plenty of room for improvement as well. It was a cruel game to watch for fans who have been battered in recent years, yet if you looked beyond the disappointment, you still saw improvement. No one wants to have to learn the hard way, but I believe this match will serve a painful lesson learned. For those of us who have begged for youth, and for those who were on the pitch. We all have to learn to take our lumps.

This post inspired by the music of Portishead

Our next match is
Serie A Week 2
Milan vs. Empoli
Saturday, August 29 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)