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Sunday Showdown: Nocerino and Others Like Him

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What type of impact could Antonio Nocerino have on the 2016 MLS season?

Antonio Nocerino, arriving at Orlando International Airport this week, has excited the Orlando faithful who are looking forward to some of the possibilities with him in the lineup. Unfortunately, he will not be gracing the field with his presence this afternoon. Yet, we here at The Mane Land can look forward to and anticipate what type of role he might have and how he may fare in his first season with Orlando and in MLS.

Over the off-season the Sunday Showdown has focused many on statistical comparisons, looking at what other players at a given position have accomplished within the league to predict the statistics of current Orlando players. This week we will add a little more depth to the comparison and a little less breadth as we remove looking at all players at the central midfield role and concentrate on players in MLS who over the years played with high profile clubs in Serie A and are now plying their trade in MLS in a central midfield role.

The reason for looking at other players in MLS who have played in Serie A is because of the distinct role of midfielders within Serie A, especially the Gennaro Gattuso role that Nocerino filled with AC Milan after Gatusso’s departure for Sion. There has not been a lot of movement from Serie A over the years, but there are three players who come to mind: Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), Marco Donadel (Montreal Impact) and Michael Bradley (Toronto FC).

These individuals play differently but all are focused around their midfield duties and are currently plying their trade within the Eastern Conference within MLS. Taking a quick look at these players numbers last year within MLS we can see that there are varying degrees of success as measured by statistics within MLS.

We can see that Pirlo, the creator that he is, shows strength within those categories, especially in assists and crosses. Where Bradley, who is seen as a more box-to-box midfielder, looks strong across the board including the shots and shots on goal metrics. Marco Donadel is lagging behind the two but many can consider that a showing of his talent in general when compared to Pirlo and Bradley.

Narrowing down the comparisons for Nocerino between Andrea Pirlo and Michael Bradley many may tend to lean towards the Italian, but Nocerino is more of a box-to-box midfielder built in the central defensive midfielder mold like Michael Bradley. This description of his play could lead us to look directly to Bradley’s play over the past two MLS seasons as the predictors of Nocerino’s impact. If this were true, we should look forward to Nocerino putting approximately 3.5 goals in the back of the net and having five assists on the season, all while having 15 shots on goal and completing 39 crosses.

But, that is considering Nocerino plays the same role that Bradley plays with Toronto. Considering the moves that may take place with a 4-3-2-1 in Adrian Heath’s lineup and how that would effect Kaká, Nocerino could take a more central role of distribution within the club in the near future. That could lead to a more creative playmaker role that he tends to drift towards when available, such as that of Pirlo's role with NYCFC.

However this will all hinge upon how Heath sees fit to employ his new weapon within the Orlando system, considering the statistics we have seen from previous Serie A players who have some of the same tendencies, do not expect a high octane goal-scorer in the mold of Sebastian Giovinco, but more of a box-to-box Gatusso mold midfielder who can affect the overall game in more ways than one.

So, let's look forward to the win versus Real Salt Lake and the future run of form that brings loads of points for OCSC. Hopefully Antonio Nocerino will play an important role in the games to come. Let’s go Orlando!