When a player costs a lot of money and doesn't perform, fans get mad. Who can blame them?
Well, Orlando City fans are definitely #madonline right now at Antonio Nocerino. And again, who can blame them?
The Lions were linked to the Italian midfielder throughout the off-season, and talk finally started to ramp up near the beginning of the MLS preseason, when more and more overseas reports had Nocerino suiting up for Orlando City in 2016.
A former Italian national team and then-AC Milan midfielder, there was plenty of both hype and disapproval of the signing throughout the fan base. While it's hard to say just how much fans actually wanted Orlando City to pick up Nocerino, it was easy to be confused by the whole situation, considering just how little need Orlando had for a starting defensive midfielder and/or left winger.
And it wasn't easy for Orlando to sign him, either. First, there were the negotiations, even though D.C. United held his discovery rights, which led DC into considering tampering charges, causing the Lions to spend somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000 in allocation money just to acquire his rights. Only then were the Lions able to actually get his signature on the contract that's reportedly paying him between $600,000 and $700,000. Crazy, right?
So, we're seven games into the Nocerino era in Orlando. How are things going?
Yeah, what Pete said.
Nocerino has started in all seven appearances for Orlando City so far, and why shouldn't he? He's making more than $600K. But the numbers have been underwhelming thus far: no goals, no assists, a 72 percent passing accuracy (it's been a lot worse in some games), and just one of four shots put on frame. His touch has been off, he turns the ball over too often, he looks out of place more often than not, and he's not the best defensive midfielder on the team. Or even the second best.
On the bright side, he hasn't been sent off in a match yet. So there's that, right?
The biggest problem has been clear and simple: he just doesn't seem to fit on this team in this system, and it's easy to say his play has only hindered Orlando City from the beginning.
Now, I completely understand the reasoning for why he might have gotten off to such a slow start with the club: he's joining a new team, in a new league, in a new country, and hadn't played game minutes for Milan since last August. Even then, with most players you can see what they're eventually building back to. In this case, it's hard to see any of that.
And most people agree.
As much as I was taking a shot there, I'm dead serious. Orlando City should look into shipping Nocerino. He's an awful fit for league/team.— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) May 15, 2016
.@OrlandoCitySC spent a lot of money to bring in Nocerino. He's had ample time to show something. Not playing Winter is costing them points.— Christian Bruey (@CBrueyWFTV) May 15, 2016
Orlando City never needed to change its formation and shape coming into the season to be successful, but Adrian Heath has adopted a 4-3-2-1 more this season to fit in Nocerino, which hasn't been all too impressive, either. But even then, we see Orlando revert back to their comfortable 4-2-3-1, which fits Nocerino even worse.
His preference is the left side of the field, and I'll level here: he actually didn't look all too bad against Sporting KC on Sunday. He wasn't able to contribute much to the attacking game, but he did well to open up space on the wing to create opportunities for Brek Shea to flank down the left side, which we saw work pretty effectively early in the match. Outside of that match, he's often been too slow and too quick to turn the ball over moving forward, maybe leading on passes thinking his teammates are able to get to them, being too used to Serie A attackers who could normally play up to his level of passing.
It's easy for me to sit here and say he's only playing because his salary demands he must -- and I've taken the stance from the beginning -- but at some point the coaching staff and front office needs to agree they've seen enough and start doing what's best for the club. Right now, unfortunately, Nocerino is not what's best for Orlando City.
The fact of the matter is that right now, Nocerino isn't a fit for Orlando City, or MLS. He never was going to be, he isn't now, and he probably won't be moving forward.