Serie A in the USA

Despite Milan's shameless emphasis on the U.S. market, it is still such a privilege for fans when the team comes to play near you. Last night, I had that privilege, when Milan faced Juventus in Los Angeles, as did a total of 18,470 other Serie A fans. And while Milan lost to Juve on penalties, it was not only another opportunity for the team to get some match fitness in, but also for us lucky fans to have the experience of seeing our team up close and personal. Instead of all of us taking a 14 hour flight to Milano, the whole team flew 14 hours to be here with us. So no matter what the club's intentions were, for local fans, it was amazing to have Serie A in the USA.

Silencing the Juventus fans with this first Milan goal, you love to see it.

Driving into the parking lot, with tons of people selling counterfeit jerseys and flags for both teams, one hapless man approached us offering a fake Juve jersey. I told him "wrong team," and I meant that in all of the ways. The Juve fans would prove that to me over and over again all night long, even if they made up about 70-80% of the entire crowd.

As we approached the stadium, we saw the Milan Fan Zone, with Italy and Milan legends Baresi and Massaro frantically signing autographs, while Juventini were lined up like lemmings in their comparatively lame fan zone for some reason, I could not figure out why. And of course, there was the Milan merch trailer, with merch as far as the eyes could see.

Marketing our legends like show ponies.

Some of the things that we witnessed in stadium that wouldn't have made the broadcast were Leão having to pick up a water bottle off of the pitch in front of the Juve bench, or the horrific way in which the stadium announcer butchered at least 50% of all of the players' names. The condition of the pitch was very poor, as many are here in the U.S., and the Galaxy had just played a match there the night before. Also, the Milan goalkeeper kits look bright in pictures and video, but in person, they are blindingly neon orange. Like dayglo orange is having an identity crisis because of them. But the away kits are pristine and perfect in person as well.

During Sunday's broadcast, I mentioned that the Real Madrid fans bringing drums to a friendly might have been too much. A couple of Juve fans also did, and I can tell you for certain that bringing drums to a friendly definitely is too much. Also, the Juve fans got at least one of their chants wrong, it was embarrassing for all Serie A fans as they sang it wrong all night long.

Pulisic clearly the fan favorite in his home country.

Pioli put out a strong starting 11, and Pulisic, the American, got the loudest applause of any Milan player when the team was announced. The match started off with a bang just two minutes in when Leão slotted the ball into the back of the net shortly after Pulisic was whistled for offside. But the ball hitting the back of the net at least prepared the Juventus fans surrounding us for the disappointment that was to come in the first half. 

Potential injuries are more worrisome in the stadium, because commentators on the television broadcast sometimes get information to reassure viewers, but fans in the stadium don't get that information. So when Tomori fell awkwardly and injured his back just four minutes in, then went down again five minutes later, it was troubling. Also, well before he went off, Calabria grabbed his thigh as if he had a muscle issue, so it was not a surprise to us when he was subbed off in the 20th.

Thiaw's expression sums up how it felt just to be there.

Thiaw may have earned the first yellow of the match when he and Moise Kean collided just 15 minutes in. But I could not have been happier for him when he scored his very first Milan goal in the 23rd minute, a header from a Theo Hernández free kick, right in front of us. 1-0 Milan. Also, so proud to hear Milan Club SoCal leading the Milan chants, despite being the minority in the stadium. There are not a lot of Milan fans here on the West Coast, but the club has represented us so well this week.

Juventus equalized in the 33rd on the third try after a scramble in the box, also from a corner, to make it 1-1 all, which made the Juve-heavy crowd very happy. Their happiness was short-lived, as six minutes later, from another Theo corner in to Thiaw again, Giroud flicked it in to make it 2-1 Milan. Juve players, but even more so their fans, were livid, thinking he was offside, even though Miretti clearly kept him onside, and was standing closest to the Juve bench and majority of fans.

Giroud made it two, Thiaw got the assist.

This is the extent of how pathetic Juve fans are: shortly after the goal, while the fans were still crying about the non-existent offside, the ball hit one of the Juve player's arms, and Milan players called for a handball. This led the Juve fans to an uproar, yelling at the refs to award a handball. That would have benefitted Milan. I was almost embarrassed for them. Just kidding, we were laughing so hard.

One more note on the first half: There was a ball played forward that Giroud did not get to, and I have seen a lot of comments about him being "too old and slow." First of all, how many times has Leão, or Theo, who are neither old nor slow, missed a ball like that? And I can assure you, having watched Giroud's work ethic up close, that I was impressed with how much speed he has and how much running he does off the ball, things you do not see on screen. We have seen him defend and block goals, he may be old on paper, but slow is not a word I would use to describe him having seen him in person.

Reijnders had a fantastic match, he was really fun to watch in person as well

Juve equalized again in the 48th, once again from a set piece, Rugani's header seemingly deflected in slightly by Giroud's bleached hair. 2-2 all. In the 57th, Pioli changed ten of 11 players, everyone but Florenzi, who now inherited the captain's armband, which had already been worn by both Calabria and Theo on the evening. Primavera midfielder Zeroli also made his debut in the 83rd, subbing on for Florenzi, who then handed off the armband to Saelemaekers. 

That last 30 minutes resembled more of a training match, with mainly reserves and youth players on the pitch for both sides. There were a couple of chances, Pinsoglio made a save on Luka Romero and one on Adli, I think, but not a lot happened. With the game ending in a draw, which Americans apparently are not capable of comprehending or something, the match went to penalties. I felt like maybe we cursed the match, given that the same thing happened when we attended the Milan game in 2018 at the same stadium.

Despite the blinding kits in person, Maignan is such a tangibly calming force on the pitch.

Many will speak about how Luka Romero slipped and skied his penalty over the bar, but what you may not have known was how wet the pitch was there. For some reason, before the match and at halftime, they watered just that half of the pitch, which likely contributed to his slipping. You can see in the replays as he hits the ground with his hand before getting up, water actually splashes up off of the grass.

Juve's reserve keeper Pinsoglio made two penalty saves. For his save on Pobega, he was actually over the line when Pobega shot, but whatever, it was a friendly. And he saved on poor Primavera defender Bartesaghi, who did not take a great penalty. Sportiello made two solid saves, one on Iling Jr. and one on Kostić, but because of Luka Romero's slip, Juve won 4-3 on penalties. Sportiello was a bit furbo, he kept slipping onto the pitch next to the goal during the penalties. But to be fair, he was probably just trying to get away from the hostile Juve fans.

Theo taking on Weston McKennie, one of three American players who started the match.

Speaking of hostile Juve fans, my daughter and I were subjected to nonstop sexist comments for the entire second half from a couple of unsavory Juventus fans sitting behind us. I think they thought they were clever because they spoke in Spanish, and we are white, so they were both racist and sexist. Despite the fact that there were numerous announcements in the stadium that racism, sexism, and discrimination of any kind would not be tolerated, or that the ad boards literally read #StandUpToAllHate throughout the match, they did not stop.

I suppose maybe they struggled to comprehend how two females knew the names of every player. Or that we understood why the Milan goal was not offside. Or that we laughed when they called for a handball on their own player. Or that we knew more about their team than they did. Apparently all of these things were threats to their fragile sense of masculinity, I don't know.

As Rebecca Welton points out, misogyny is a big word, but ask your daughter what it means.

But the truth is that there is no excuse for discrimination of any kind. I am certain that if we had been male, there would not have been any problem. That is about them, not us. If they are uncomfortable with females knowing more about football than them, that is also on them, they have the same opportunity if not more than us to learn. 

But that they should berate us and insult us for 45 minutes for something we cannot change is wrong. Period. This is 2023. And even if Serie A came to the USA, some things apparently are the same everywhere. Misogyny in football is still thriving. Juventus fans are the worst, no matter where in the world they live. 

There is nothing else like seeing the team in person, it is a privilege.

But also true is that Milan is an amazing club. Our new players are exciting to watch, and it seems like in the short time they have been together, they are already beginning to develop an understanding of one another, which will be very nice if really true. And despite experiencing hate up close and way too personal, it was still amazing to see our team so close to home. Even if the Club's intentions were purely marketing and money, the reward for fans was so much deeper than that. I am so grateful to have been one of the lucky fans to experience Serie A in the USA.

This post inspired by the music of The Linda Lindas' "Racist, Sexist Boy"

Our next match is 
a friendly
AC Milan vs. Barcelona
Tuesday, August 1, 2023 • 8pm PDT (Wednesday, August at 5am CEST)

Serie A in the USA Serie A in the USA Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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