It did not take long for Vincent Nogueira to impress his new Philadelphia Union teammates.
Just three days after arriving at training camp, the French midfielder (pictured above at right) was plugged into the starting lineup for Wednesday night's preseason game against the New York Red Bulls at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field.
And the 26-year-old Nogueira – who signed with the Union two weeks ago after spending eight years with French club Sochaux – was one of the most active players on the field for the Union in a 2-1 loss.
He also recorded the team’s only assist, tapping the ball to Jack McInerney on an indirect free kick in the box after Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles was whistled for time-wasting.
“I like him,” said Maurice Edu, one of Nogueira’s new midfield partners. “He’s very comfortable on the ball. He likes to get on the ball. I told him before the game, ‘Just play. Just do whatever you want.’ And me and [Brian Carroll] will adjust according to what he’s doing. I thought he did well. He found a lot of holes, and he looked to turn and create things. I think he was a good spark for us. I think him being so eager to get on the ball will create opportunities for me to get forward more and make playing out of the back a little bit easier as well.”
The Union gave fans a glimpse of how their midfield will likely take shape this season, as manager John Hackworth started all three of his prized offseason acquisitions – Nogueira, Edu and Argentine left winger Cristian Maidana (pictured above at left) – along with captain Carroll. Danny Cruz got the start on the right wing, with McInerney slotting in as the lone striker.
But despite a couple of positive signs, the Union were not as organized as they would have liked, a natural problem for a team integrating new players in the preseason.
“Vincent, I think he showed his qualities in there,” Hackworth said. “Maidana did the same thing. It’s going to take a little bit of time, a little bit of work to get those guys on the same page and syncing the way we would like. But so far, so good.”
The Union will get a chance to improve their midfield chemistry next week when they return to Florida to play four games at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (watch live on MLSsoccer.com). Edu said he hopes to use those games to start playing more as a box-to-box midfielder, rather than the defensive role he filled against the Red Bulls on Wednesday.
“The way the game went, I tried to make sure I was able to help a little bit more defensively and have my starting point be a little bit deeper,” Edu said. “It’s still a new team in some ways. It’s just about getting used to everything. I have to get used to my teammates’ tendencies and make sure we are all on the same page.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.