Five minutes with Lara Baldesarra
One of the hosts of Fox Soccer Report, Lara Baldesarra is a lifelong Serie A fan who can’t wait to plunk herself down on the sofa Sunday afternoon and watch Juventus take on New York at Red Bull Arena. The game will be shown live on the channel Baldesarra calls home – the Fox Soccer Channel. Check out Baldesarra at twitter.com/LaraBaldesarra for late breaking news. MLSSoccer.com's Kristian Dyer had a chance to shoot a few questions at Ms. Baldesarra in the days leading up to Sunday's New York Red Bulls vs. Juventus FC friendly match at Red Bull Arena (TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE)
KD: Juventus is coming off a disappointing campaign in both the Serie A and the Champions League. Why schedule a match like this? Is there something from this match against New York on Sunday that would be good for Luigi del Neri to see?
LB: Matches like Juventus-New York are more for club exposure and less for a player and team development. North American tours are a way for clubs to increase their marketability and brand. It’s a way for Juventus to expand into markets to grow their popularity and increase revenue by means of jersey and merchandise sales for example – not necessarily right away, but down the line. Another major reason clubs schedule games like this is to generate interest and demand for the actual viewing of their product – their soccer games. That means television rights and coverage, which is a key source of revenue. While a team like Juventus is coming-off a disappointing season it’s an important time for them to keep interest and popularity peaked in markets abroad so they maintain their financial base.
It will be interesting to see if Luigi Del Neri uses this match as a way to try-out his tactical approach for Juventus. Next season, I’ll be looking forward to watching how he plays his squad. He’s a coach that loves wingers and playing the ball up the flanks, and Juventus doesn’t have a “true” winger right now, so I’m curious to see if he’ll be looking at acquiring a player to fit that role or if he will be moving players around to try them out in those positions.
KD: What do you make of all the rumors of Juve attacker Alessandro del Piero making a move from Turin to MLS, in particular New York? Any chance that Sunday's fixture is a taste of things to come?
LB: With the MLS quickly becoming a very competitive league with the skill level and player talent increasing every year, I think we’ll start to see a lot more big name players like Alessandro Del Piero coming-over. In recent interviews, Del Piero has said that he’s not coming to New York, but I wouldn’t count it out just yet.
KD: You're love for Serie A is obvious on Fox Soccer Report - in fact I could listen to you say Catania all day long and when you utter "Chievo" it nearly makes my heart stop - but how did you get to be such a big fan of the league?
LB: I grew-up with Italian soccer and it is the league that I’m the most passionate about. In recent years it’s taken a back-seat to the Premier League for most soccer watchers, because it doesn’t have the same speed of play, and it simply isn’t as visually appealing to watch because of the ways a lot of the stadiums are constructed, with the fans sitting so far back from the pitch. I know that there needs to be improvements made to Italian soccer to bring it back to the peak of soccer popularity, but for me it is still a quality game and one that is beautiful to watch.
KD: Having seen MLS grow over the past few years, what has most impressed you about the league this season?
LB: Being so passionate about European leagues, for me the MLS started out as something I would watch to not go through soccer withdrawal in the summer, especially when it wasn’t a World Cup, Euro Cup, or Copa America year. But, I really got into the MLS when Toronto FC joined the league - as I am a Toronto-girl - and since 2007 I have really seen the League improve. What used to be a league very with strong strikers has become much more well-rounded. Defensive skill and awareness has improved along with key midfielders being a more prominent part of the game. I’ve been very impressed with the all encompassing soccer that’s being played in the MLS this season, and it’s now a league that I look forward to watching and following.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.