For years all across Major League Soccer, teams have struggled with depth. It's part of the landscape of participating in a league that manages its books tightly with stringent salary rules and a cap in place. Remember Adam Cristman running around like a chubby, awkward, American version of Peter Crouch, blowing more chances in the 2011 MLS Cup Final than I did on my senior prom night? He is the personification of the MLS struggle against depth.
Assuming the Antonio Nocerino rumors come to fruition, and that is by no means a guarantee, Orlando City would have considerable depth in one of the places on the field where it is most needed, the midfield.
The one quality that the MLS system of doing business values over all others is versatility. Brad Evans, for example, has made a career out of being the human Swiss Army Knife for Seattle, lining up across the back line and all through the midfield for the Rave Green. Before Mike Magee was winning MVP as a forward in Chicago, he was stopping shots between the pipes in a memorable shutout cameo as a goalkeeper in 2011. That's an extreme example, I know, but the point remains: Versatility is an asset, especially in MLS.
Nocerino brings some of that versatility to a midfield that is now crowded with a list of solid names. Kaká, a healthy Kevin Molino, Cristian Higuita, Darwin Cerén, Carlos Rivas, Adrian Winter and Brek Shea are all more than capable players, without a single Adam Cristman, cringe-as-soon-as-you-see-his-name-in-the-lineup type among them.
He can plausibly play at any of the five midfield spots in Adrian Heath's system, which doesn't even address the ability he brings into the team, the experienced leadership and potential chemistry with Kaká, or the way in which his beard will raise the facial hair value of the whole squad. At 30, Nocerino isn't a long-term solution by any stretch of the imagination, but he isn't necessarily a Steven Gerrard-level short-term solution either.
These are precisely the type of moves that can push the Lions from the fringe of the playoffs to solid postseason contenders. What if Molino isn't quite recovered from his ACL tear? What if Kaká starts to show stronger signs of decline, and isn't the contributor Orlando can fully rely for an entire season? What if Rivas regresses in his development? What if the dreaded injury bug pays the Lions another visit? Nocerino and Orlando's new-found depth could provide a bandage to all of those sorts of problems.
Come the dog days of July, Orlando could well use it to avoid another poor streak such as the one they had last season, where they won only one game in 11 over a particular stretch. Every point matters.