Antonio Nocerino makes most of MLS debut

CITRUS BOWL — Antonio Nocerino may have only played two-thirds of Friday’s Orlando City game, but the Italian made the most of his MLS debut.

The former AC Milan midfielder logged 63 minutes during Friday’s 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, but told reporters afterward there’s a slight difference between Major League Soccer and Europe.

“I find it very different to play in MLS because, in Italy, it’s more focused on tactics, whereas in MLS it’s more focused on aggressiveness, speed and physical attributes,” Nocerino said through a club translator.

“I had a great first impression despite playing 60 minutes,” he added. “I really missed playing, and I’m working back to get in shape. I had a great first impression of the [Citrus Bowl] atmosphere. It’s actually Orlando City’s strength, and when we play at home, our fans have to be the driving energy.”

Despite playing a bit over an hour, Nocerino created just one chance while touching the ball 59 times and completing 44 passes, while being deployed mostly at left wing.

It was also the first time Nocerino was named to a starting lineup since his time with the Rossoneri in Aug. 29 of last year. 

“I found the communication with my teammates quite easy,” Nocerino said. “Football is the same all over the world, so it’s one language. We’re just going to move forward, and communication is going to get much smoother and better, and I hope to see the team improve.”

Orlando City coach Adrian Heath was pleased with Nocerino’s performance, adding through time there will be collective progress sooner rather than later.

“He did what we think he could do,” Heath said. “He’s a good footballer, and he’s going to be really good in possession. Thought he started quite well down on the left next to him, with Brek [Shea] and Kevin [Molino]. Obviously, he hasn’t played soccer in a long time, so I thought a decent hour, and he’ll get better as we progress and he gets a lot fitter.”

Follow Mike Gramajo on Twitter (@byMikeGramajo). For more, also follow the OSJ on Twitter (@OSJSoccer).

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