Antonio Nocerino

AP Photo/John Raoux

MLS Snapshot: Fire can’t crack 9-man Orlando City

Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Jason Kreis will say something to earn himself a fine this evening — a safer bet has never existed. The worst part about it is: whatever he says, he’ll be 100 percent right. Orlando City SC’s head coach was and will remain extremely heated above the red card shown to his defender, Rafael Ramos, in the 26th minute of Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Chicago Fire. Ramos was sent of by referee Ted Unkel for a challenge that, in reality, was nothing more than a pair of players running into each other. With more than 60 minutes left to play, the bus was parked and Orlando’s chances of finding the back of the net were drastically reduced. Antonio Nocerino was also sent off for Orlando, though his red card was thoroughly warranted. Regardless, Orlando held firm in defense, facing 19 shots on the night (6 on target), and keeping the clean sheet. In truth, Chicago created next to nothing with merit.

[ MORE: USMNT draws Venezuela | Player rating | Three things ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Ramos sees red for nothing, really — This is never a red card. Never, ever. Unkel ruined a(nother) game.

66′ — Nocerino earns himself a red card — No doubt about this one. Putting your studs into an opponent’s hip is highly illegal.

92′ — Polster smashes crossbar in stoppage time — This is as close as Chicago came to breaking through, and it was so very close.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Will Johnson

Goalscorers: None

Fake GM Making Fake MLS Trades: Fixing the NE Revs’ defense

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The New England Revolution have a serious defensive problem, which I wrote about here and here on consecutive weeks. The problem? They have one first-team center back, Jose Goncalves, on their roster. That’s quite a problem.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

If they hope to make any noise in this year’s playoffs, it must be addressed. So, I, a Fake MLS General Manager, am here to present to you (and the Revs) a few Fake MLS Trades.

The assets: Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies — With the arrival of Kei Kamara, who’ll start 90 percent of the season’s remaining games at center forward, there’s just not enough minutes to go around for everyone else — particularly Davies, who can only play through the middle; at least Agudelo can play wide left, though it’s not his best position.

(Reminder: The maximum cap charge for a Designated Player contract is $457,500. Anything above that number doesn’t count toward a team’s salary cap.)

Simple and practical

Charlie Davies to New York Red Bulls; Damien Perrinelle, or Ronald Zubar and allocation money to New England Revolution

The numbers: Davies – $108,000 base salary; Perrinelle – $140,000 base salary; Zubar – $240,000 base salary

The rationale: Depending on how the Red Bulls view Perrinelle following his torn ACL during last year’s playoffs, he might or might not be available. If available, Perrinelle is the preferred option (assuming health), hence the inclusion of allocation money if it’s Zubar heading the other way. Davies wouldn’t be walking into a starting job — that still belongs to Bradley Wright-Phillips — but he’d at least be the first forward off the bench, whereas he’s third in the pecking order in New England.

Arguably impractical

Juan Agudelo to Orlando City SC; Antonio Nocerino and allocation money to LA Galaxy (Orlando City also send allcation money to New England Revolution); Leonardo and 2017 first-round SuperDraft Pick to New England Revolution

The numbers: Agudelo – $425,000 base salary; Nocerino – $600,000 base salary; Leonardo – $160,000 base salary

The rationale: First of all, are three-team trades legal in MLS? I can’t recall ever seeing one, but for the purpose of this exercise, let’s say they’re standard operating practice.

The allocation money that Orlando sends out is their way of saying, “we messed up,” by signing Nocerino to a DP-sized contract, which they get out from under for the duration of the deal, for a pair of one-time fees; it also helps to offset the $290,000 difference between Nocerino and Leonardo’s cap charges. Leonardo isn’t the most stable — or even healthy — player in MLS, but he’s a decent veteran fix for this season, and a replacement-level third center back next year, plus the flexibility of allocation money and an extra pick in next year’s draft — perhaps to be used on a center back.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Let’s shake up the league

Juan Agudelo to FC Dallas; Victor Ulloa and allocation money to Sporting Kansas City; Matt Besler to New England Revolution

The numbers: Agudelo – $425,000 base salary; Ulloa – $130,000 base salary; Besler – $700,000 base salary

The rationale: Mostly I just think Oscar Pareja should be the Agudelo whisperer, because that would be great for the U.S. national team, and FCD, of course. Ulloa would (finally) give Sporting KC a fourth central midfielder capable of forcing his way into their three-man rotation, and they get out from under a DP cap charge for a center back who’s lost his starting job to Lawrence Olum.

The problem: Besler has a no-trade clause in the DP contract he signed following the 2014 World Cup. Chances are, he’s not agreeing to a trade that sends him to Foxborough. Perhaps another raise (what’s a little more money beyond his maxed-out cap charge?) and a fresh start away from Peter Vermes would be enough to convince him otherwise.

Conclusion: The market for MLS-experienced center backs isn’t great — there’s simply not a lot of great defenders around right now, let alone as spare parts (hence the bevy of three-team trades) — which makes trading an asset as valuable as Agudelo or Davies — again, their best assets, by a mile — rather tricky.

Kaka reveals Julio Baptista set to join Orlando City SC

Washington Alves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears that another Brazilian will be heading to Orlando.

[ MORE: Could Bobby Wood be joining Liverpool? ]

After various reports surfaced, linking ex-Real Madrid striker Julio Baptista to MLS side Orlando City SC, one of the club’s existing players spilled the beans on the 34-year old’s arrival.

[ MORE: Kljestan sees USMNT role in Marsch’s future ]

Former Brazil teammate Kaka welcomed Baptista to Orlando on social media, despite the team not yet confirming the move.

Baptista spent the last three seasons with Cruzeiro, who plays in Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, before leaving the club in December.

The Eastern Conference side has already added another former teammate of Kaka’s this offseason, in AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino.

[ MORE: Latest MLS standings ] [ MORE: MLS stats ] [ MORE: MLS scores ]

With Orlando City out of action this weekend due to the international break, expect a move to be announced in the coming days. The club could be forming a very nice partnership with young striker Cyle Larin already torching opposing MLS defenses.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Orlando City SC (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): Cyle Larin’s early goal was enough to give Orlando their first win of the season as they defeated New York City FC 1-0 at Yankee Stadium Friday night. The defending MLS Rookie of the Year grabbed his third goal in as many games to give Orlando all three points, handing NYCFC their first defeat of the 2016 campaign. NYCFC had the better of chances and looked dangerous throughout the match, but were unable to beat Joe Bendik in goal. Unfortunately for Orlando, both Larin and Antonio Nocerino were forced off with injuries.

[ MORE: MLS Week 3 Preview ]

Three moments that mattered

7′ — Larin puts Orlando ahead early — Cyle Larin grabbed his third goal of the season just minutes into the match. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders went to punch a cross away from danger, but he mishit his clearance which went right to Larin’s head.

55′ — Nocerino, Larin both forced off with injuries — In a span of minutes, both Antonio Nocerino and Cyle Larin went down with injuries for Orlando. Nocerino looked to have a hamstring injury while Larin took a knock and came off soon after. With Kaka already out injured, Orlando has to hope these issues are nothing serious.

60′ — Bendik makes a huge stop for OCSC — NYCFC’s best chance came just after the hour mark from Mix Diskerud, who was denied by Joe Bendik. Diskerud took a through ball in and looked certain to score, but Bendik got down quickly and palmed the shot away as Orlando remained ahead.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Joe Bendik

Goalscorers: Larin (7′)

Will Orlando and New York City find success in sophomore seasons?

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

This time last year many had figured Orlando City and New York City would be among the best MLS expansion teams in league history by the end of their opening seasons.

While Orlando found their way to the fringes of the playoff race, New York City barely got out of the starting blocks. With 31 losses and a combined minus-19 goal differential between the two, to say 2015 was a disappointment is an understatement.

[ MORE: 2016 MLS Eastern Conference preview ]

In Orlando’s case, perhaps it was understandable. Yes, they had Kaka and veterans like Aurelien Collin and Brek Shea, but also a bunch of players making the jump from USL to MLS.

In New York’s case, it was disappointing. The club had started with a terrific game plan, composing a strategy from scratch with MLS wizard Jason Kreis. David Villa was coming, and Mix Diskerud was there while the team waited for Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard to arrive at Yankee Stadium.

After a win and two draws to start their season, NYC lost seven of nine. They thrice lost to the Red Bulls, lost to the Cosmos in the Open Cup and were streakier than a windshield cleaned by a four-year-old.

[ MORE: Hasn’t had a cheesesteak yet, but Pontius excited for Union life ]

Optimism abounds this time of year, and there’s no reason for it to be any different for this pair of Eastern Conference sophomores. Here are five reasons the Lions and NYC will kick on this season.

1) Cyle Larin scored 17 goals as a rookie. He was 20.

The Canadian wonder played in 27 games last season and doesn’t turn 21 until April. The goals came in bunches last year, and the experience points to him learning how to find the consistency needed to avoid another 50-day goal drought (during which OCSC went 2W-4L-2T.

2) New York’s trio gets a proper preseason

It might sound silly to suggest that Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo needed to learn something about anything soccer-related, but playing on a postage stamp for your home field is an education. Those midfielders joined late in the season, and David Villa couldn’t do it all by himself (though he almost did).

3) And yeah, David Villa

The now 34-year-old Spaniard scored 18 goals and 8 assists, his brightest statistical year since the 2010-11 campaign with Barcelona. Yes, La Liga is plenty ahead of MLS, but Villa could be flying even higher this year.

4) A big San Siro reunion in Orlando

Kaka did just fine in his debut season in Major League Soccer, scoring nine times and adding 7 assists. He’ll be freed up a bit by the arrival of fellow former AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino. Well-traveled but rarely used this season, he’ll be fresh when he hits the pitch for the Lions.

5) Vieira and his brand new defense

Patrick Vieira might be a new head coach, but he’s not new to organizing a team. That will benefit his brand new set of defenders including Frederic Brilliant, which in turn will benefit returning back Andoni Iraola.