The Philadelphia Union are coming off a difficult road loss after again going down to 10 men this past weekend against Seattle. But with all of the injuries and suspensions in the midfield, Vincent Nogueira has stood out with exceptional play.
Nogueira was forced to miss three games after the season opener against FC Dallas because of an ankle injury that he picked up during training. But seemingly back to full health, he’s returned to similar form.
“I was unlucky before Columbus,” Nogueira said. I just sprained it the day before the game. Then it felt better, but I was on the bench and didn't play. Now I feel good.”
Even with the injury struggles, Nogueira has been at the top of his game in every game he has played. In fact, he leads the team in passing accuracy, sitting at a pretty 83.1 percent (with a minimum of 200 passes attempted). He also leads the team in successful passes in the opponents half with 91.
Being on the team the last two years, Nogueira knows the importance of starting off the season right. Also being part of the team that had lost two U.S. Open Cup Finals, he has learned the importance of learning from losses.
“We didn't start well in the last two seasons so it's important for us to start well,” Nogueira said following the Orlando City game. “Two games at home, and two wins - I think it's going to be important for us to win at home this season. Playing away in our league, we know it's difficult to win. But this year, it's completely different. I can see the difference from last year and two years ago. We've played much, much better. We're more confident.”
Nogueira has been key in the new and improved Union tactics. The Philadelphia Union lead the league with a 54.9 percent duel success, and are second best in dribble success rate of 42.9 percent (Real Salt Lake 44).
“We're more confident with the ball,” Nogueira said. “We have more of the ball. As a player, that's always better, because you're running less defensively. It's much better than last season, so we're happy.”
Taking over midfield responsibility after the injury has been a successful feat for the former Sochaux captain. Nogueira had arguably his best game of the year against Seattle this past weekend, displaying his usual valuable diagonal, switch-the-field type of passes. Although the team lost to the Sounders, Nogueira completed 84.9 percent of his passes and a team-high 34 successful passes in Seattle’s half.
The Frenchman and the Union will turn their attention to New York City FC who visit Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday, April 23. The last time these two faced off in Chester, Nogueira scored the game winner in extra time to beat NYCFC 2-1.
The Union will also be home four out of their next five games, giving them the opportunity to pick up very important, early season points.