Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Vincent Nogueira

Photo: Earl Gardner

Through the first six Philadelphia Union games of 2015, Vincent Nogueira has been deployed in three different midfield roles along several different sets of teammates.

  • Part of a central midfield pairing in a 4-4-2 against Colorado
  • Aligned ahead of Maurice Edu and beneath Cristian Maidana in his more natural role against RSL
  • Forced to play a more attacking role after Zach Pfeffer was sent off against Dallas
  • Filled in at the No. 10 against Chicago
  • Out and injured against SKC
  • Deployed ahead of a defensively minded Michael Lahoud and behind a traditional No. 10 in Zach Pfeffer against NYCFC

The Union’s performances in these games highlight that Nogueira has many talents, which serve as both assets and limitations to his team. The assets that he provides are obvious, given his strong performances as a distributor and defender thus far. But for Nogueira’s talents to be fully utilized, Jim Curtin must provide him with the proper complementary players to compensate for what he lacks.

Maurice Edu is an exceptionally talented midfielder, put he is not an out and out No. 6, meaning that in midfield, he tends to get forward and leave space behind him in attack. This is fine, provided his midfield partner is positionally disciplined and stays back to cover that space.

When partnered with Edu in midfield, Nogueira did his best to maintain his attacking position, and it took away from the Vincent Nogueira that we knew and loved: the Vincent Nogueira that buzzed all over the pitch, serving as an outlet to defenders, playing balls across the field to his more offensively minded teammates, and serving as their pressure release valve along the wings in the attacking third.

Nogueira passing chart vs. NYCFC at PPL Park.

Nogueira passing chart vs. NYCFC at PPL Park.

Against NYCFC, we finally saw that Nogueira once again, and credit goes to Jim Curtin for playing a true No. 6 in Mike Lahoud to break up plays, clog the passing lanes (somehow he wasn’t credited with any interceptions by OPTA even though I had him for 12 after watching the tape), and generally to protect the backline to allow Nogueira to do what he does.

And so he did.

It was a vintage performance from the Frenchman that saw him put in a great deal of work on both sides of the ball and culminated in his stoppage time winner. Through the off season, Jim Curtin stated the importance of both Nogueira and Christian Maidana contributing more goals and assists in order for this team to be successful. While Nogueira has directly stated that scoring isn’t his primary role within the team, a late run into the box here or there can’t hurt things. It certainly didn’t on Saturday.

For that, among many other contributions, Vincent Nogueira is PSP’s player of the week.

Honorable mention: John McCarthy

He may not have put on a flawless performance on the field, but John McCarthy’s MLS debut exemplified everything it means to be Philly tough.

Yes, he struggled with his distribution and produced a nervous moment on a cross that he likely lost in the sun, but he also came confidently off his line on numerous occasions and produced a number of saves on the much more expensive pairing of Mix Diskerud and David Villa.

His performance aside, McCarthy showed a certain youthful exuberance and enthusiasm that served to inspire his teammates and fans alike. He didn’t necessarily pull of a singularly brilliant play on Saturday, but for the duration of those ninety minutes, McCarthy’s presence gave the entire franchise a much needed boost.

He may not be the starter in goal for the rest of this season. Hell, he may not even start later this week. But in earning his first professional win in his first MLS start, John McCarthy gained several thousand fans that will cherish his personality and performance for the rest of their lives. Hopefully the organization that he represents can turn this inspiration into more tangible results going forward.


  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    an interesting point that you make tangentially to you proper main purpose of lauding Nogueira, that OPTA is fallible. By sight and from memory Lahoud was incisive in intercepting SKC passes as well. He has a goalkeeper-like straight line explosion to the ball now that I don’t remember noticing before. How does OPTA make such an error?

  2. The Chopper says:

    Prior to this season Lahoud’s principle minutes the last two years have been at the frenetic pace of African international play. MLS may seem a bit slow by comparison and with that feeling he is getting an excellent read on the flow of play.

    His problem in the past has been turnovers as his upfield passes lack accuracy, but he really seems focused on maintaining possession. So to those who complain that he back passes too much, I say so what? I would rather make sure we have the ball.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Did we have the ball? We haven’t reached 40% possession, in either of the last two weeks. This is not all Lahoud’s fault. It is a group effort.
      As for the lack of progressive passing; Lahoud’s biggest drawback is his vision, while on the ball. He doesn’t look to make the play, he looks to dish off. This would be fine, if the player receiving the pass (usually a fullback) didn’t just kick the ball away. Lahoud would be wise to slow it down and look to get the ball to Noguiera, in space. If Lahoud had a bit of vision, he would be a VERY good DM. He’s got everything else…OK, a shot wouldn’t hurt either…

      • To your point…. it is not easy to surrender 68% possession which seems to be the near average the last few games without going back to count.
        Even the great Barcelona against the likes of the 18th or 19th best team in La Liga does not approach 70% very often.
        I do not mind the counter attacking mentality. I do however mind the inability to build play at all. It should be quite easy to tip the balance 5 or 6 percentage points with incisive 4th and 5th passes. I set a goal of watching the number of 5 pass combinations early on in the season but quite because it was so disheartening. There is no shame in passing the ball backwards. Good DMs do it all the time. If all the back passes actually led to retention no one would have a problem with it- but that is seldom the case.
        The allure of first win is over. The feel good done. Back to the soap box.

  3. A minor nit to pick. Saturday was not McCarthy’s “professional” debut. Rochester is a pro team.

  4. Sochauxfan says:

    Glad Vincent is doing well in the MLS, goodl uck to him

    A Sochaux fan 🙂

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