Offseason Issues

Offseason Issues: Vincent Nogueira

Photo: Earl Gardner

In the craziness that defined 2014 for the Philadelphia Union, one truly remarkable development flew largely under the radar.

A five-foot-six, 140-pound midfielder who had never played football outside of Sochaux, France stepped right off an airplane and became the team’s most valuable player — and, I would argue, the most talented player to ever slip on a blue-and-gold kit.

No acquisition in franchise history has ever been so well-calculated — FC Sochaux was in deep financial trouble and in preparation for relegation when the Union swooped in — or well-conceived. Vincent Nogueira became, almost immediately, the most reliable player in a topsy-turvy Union side, willing to play out of position as a CAM and fighting through fatigue and injury right up to the season’s disappointing end.

Nogueira supplied some moments of sheer brilliance this season, including a howitzer of a goal against New England and a sumptuous assist against Real Salt Lake. But aside from the highlight reel moments were hundreds of short passes made and received, delicate touches that confounded larger and more physical players, and smart movements that gave the other members of the XI options to keep the play going. Great players make their teammates better; despite barely knowing the language, Nogueira did that this year.

The Issue: If Vincent Nogueira leaves, Union fans will be very sad. Also, there will be a huge hole in the team that will be difficult to replace.

Possible Solutions:

It is interesting to me that Nogueira’s status is an issue going into the offseason. There are, in fact, no concrete suggestions that Nogueira is looking for a way out of town, or of other teams looking for his services.

But a combination of factors have led to the worry that he may be heading out of town.

  1. The Union’s front office has been a bit of a shambles this year. And that’s putting it mildly — but that topic has been (and will continue to be) beaten to death. Why would Vincent Nogueira put his trust in this shorthanded front office and coaching staff? (Even though it’s hard to say what he thinks of the whole situation — see point number four below.)
  2. Union players have a bad habit of leaving the franchise. We’ve seen Le Toux, Califf, Mondragon, and McInerney go before him, and Zac MacMath and Amobi Okugo seem set to follow. The roster is annually torn entirely to shreds, with no player seemingly safe. The fear that another great player might suddenly slip out of town is not unreasonable, given franchise history.
  3. Someone might be able to pay more for him. Nogueira’s salary for 2014 is $330,000, or about $50K below the threshold to become a Designated Player. It is entirely possible that Nogueira deserves a raise and the accompanying Designated Player spot, but he is already the second-highest-paid player on the roster. If the Union are unwilling to match an offer from another club, it might be tough to keep Nogueira in the team.
  4. No one really knows anything about Nogueira. I’ve been genuinely fascinated by this guy since he’s joined the team, and yet I don’t think I really know anything about him. The language barrier is one thing, but Cristian Maidana overcame that with the fans by posting a ton of pictures of all-around cool dude. Nogueira, in contrast, doesn’t like press attention, and it’s hard to get a read on his personality. After the devastating Open Cup loss, he was hailed as a great competitor for looking disgustedly at his second-place medal, and that’s about all we have on the guy. There isn’t a strong bond between player and fans or player and press, so his intentions remain shrouded in mystery.
  5. He’s been cagey about his future. In the very few interviews he’s done, Nogueira has said that he’s enjoying his time with the Union and hopes to play many games here. He’s also said, “The USA is the life I wanted to try. It won’t last a thousand years. Perhaps in two or three months I’ll say that I’m coming back [to France]. I don’t want to look too far ahead.” (I, for one, would not mind if he played for the Union for the next thousand years.) In a recent interview on the Union website, Nogueira said, “I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t really think about my future. My future as a professional, my future in Philadelphia, yeah, I don’t really think about it.” It’s all honest, basically innocuous, stuff. But to a fanbase shellshocked by a disappointing season from a club that still hasn’t named a permanent head coach, and has a history of letting key players go even without mechanisms like the upcoming Expansion Draft to contend with, such comments raise more than a few eyebrows.

The solution is simple: the Union must keep Nogueira in Philadelphia, even if it means confiscating the guy’s passport. By a stroke of luck and genius, the Union have under contract a talented player in his prime who can instantly improve an entire lineup. With roster turnover likely again this winter, Nogueira will be an essential part of pulling together a stronger side next year.

If they can’t hang on to the diminutive Frenchman, the Union must fetch a hefty transfer fee — and be prepared to justify to their fans why, once again, talent has slipped away — especially with questions about where Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu will be playing in 2015.


  1. I will cry shamelessly if Nogueria is not in a Union shirt next year.

  2. My guess is that Noguiera’s decision might very well be contingent on who coaches the team. If I were a player, that would probably be the biggest factor. I’m also going to venture a guess that he likes Curtin. Nothing to base that on other than he didn’t show any signs of not liking him.

    If I were to gamble on it, my guess is he’ll be back.



  4. I really worry about this situation because this team was so bad this year and really embarrassing to say the least. I hope Nogs is not pondering the however many games this team could not hold the lead. I’m sure deep down that has to be frustrating to him. Hopefully he understands that he is a huge part of this team and quite frankly the Sons of Ben/River End have done poorly to show how much he means to this team.

    • if you played your whole career in France and experienced a year like this year………..frustrating is putting it mildly. I bet he walked into the locker room after a few matches and went straight to the john to throw up!

      • Muttering to himself in the heavy and hot dialect of Northern France about how totally whack the play is around these parts happens to be on any given game day.
        I smile and cringe thinking about it.

      • hahaha…..yup!

  5. He’s clearly on a different level than anybody else on the pitch. Need to keep him…… him the $$$$$$$$$! There is plenty of fat to trim from this roster to find him ducketts!

  6. ‘stroke of luck. stroke of genius.’ stroke him. sign him. no matter what. in a league of average he is excellence.

  7. Please don’t let nogs leave. Haven’t we suffered enough! The picture you used sums up my worries. Nogs screaming that there is no one to pass the ball too. I just hope he stays.

  8. James Lockerbie says:

    Nogs will be back, Won’t he?

  9. there are a million moving parts and important decisions to navigate for this team during the offseason, but aside from addressing and settling the manager/coach situation nogueira is the most important situation to handle. i love okugo and i like edu but that ‘controversy’ comes in a distant second when compared to securing nogueira

  10. i bought a shirt with his name in the hopes that some statistic somewhere would tell the union to keep him. fingers crossed

  11. Vincent is the Union’s to lose.

  12. Craig Strimel says:

    This all makes perfect sense, and it would still leave me feeling utterly lost, confused and deflated if he is not on the pitch next season.

  13. burning my season tickets if he’s not back next season

    • Packed With Goodness, Baked With Love says:

      If they lose Nogs, that will be the last straw for many fans. Too many good players leaving in their prime over the last five years.

  14. Did anyone at PSP forward the fan MVP poll to the Union FO??Please keep Nogs …PLEASE!!!

  15. restez, SVP

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