It's no secret that Orlando has had a strained relationship with Antonio Nocerino. The former AC Milan midfielder didn't have the best start to life at Orlando City with some poor performances, and a particular exchange of words with a fan gave the fan base the impression that he was just another big name signed to put butts in seats but wasn't truly invested in the club.
However, his stock has been on the rise as of late.
Since Jason Kreis' arrival, the performances have steadily increased in quality and the Italian is starting to make a positive impact on the squad. Orlando's gamble on an out of favor Serie A reject may finally be paying off.
Nocerino's performance in defensive midfield against the Colorado Rapids seems to suggest that he's come to grips with the specific playing style of the league. The role of the regista midfielder, specifically in a 4-2-3-1 formation is to control and spread the possession in an intelligent and efficient manner. The "2" in the 4-2-3-1 formation should act as a link between defense and attack, with the ideal partnership being one destroyer and one architect. The destroyer disrupts the opposition's passing rhythms, and the architect starts dangerous passing moves from deep midfield. Carrasco and Higuita often play this role for the Lions, but a case can be made that Nocerino should frequent the position due to his past few performances.
What people don't often understand is that it's difficult to quantify the importance and effectiveness of a proper regista through simple singular statistics. Pass completion isn't an adequate measure of their role. A player in said position could have a 100% completion rate during a particular game, yet they may not have made any incisive passes. As stated before, the purpose of the specific position is to spread the play in an efficient manner. This doesn't necessarily mean making a key pass in the final third or directly setting up a teammate for an assist, but rather switching the play to set up a build up from an advantageous position.
Luka Modric is one of the best registas in the world because of his ability to spread the play via his extensive range of passes. Trivelas, long balls, and dummies are just some of the things the diminutive Croatian uses to put the ball in places where the opposition doesn't see as an immediate danger but is still the proper area for a dangerous move to start. Nocerino has played this role to a T as of late, and has even gone the extra mile and been involved in some key offensive and defensive actions.
Nocerino may never be the guy stealing the headlines with a record amount of assists and goals, but if he continues performing in this fashion, the little Italian could be as important as any star striker Orlando City has.