It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Vincent Nogueira since he signed with the Philadelphia Union.
After a protracted negotiation over his transfer from French club Sochaux, the 26-year-old midfielder joined his new team after preseason training had already started in Florida.
In addition to getting settled off the field, he has had to learn to mesh quickly with fellow newcomers Maurice Edu and Cristian Maidana. He has also had to learn the tendencies of two Union veterans, Jack McInerney and fellow Frenchman Sébastien Le Toux.
The early returns are positive. So far, John Hackworth has lined up Nogueira in the middle of a three-man attacking midfield line in a 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s a position Nogueira has played before, and it’s the one that seems to fit him best within the Union’s squad.
I talked with Nogueira for a few minutes Tuesday night at the Union’s meet-the-team party. As my French is better than his English, we did the interview in Nogueira’s native language. The translation below is my own.
What do you think of Philadelphia so far?
It’s still a bit too early to truly judge, but I’m very happy to be here, and to have worked through the preseason in Orlando. I hope we’re going to have a good campaign with this team because I think we have a good group. We can do some good things this season. I hope we get off to a good start this weekend in Portland.
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like there hasn’t been much time for you to build chemistry with your new teammates, especially the other new players like Maurice Edu and Cristian Maidana. Has it been difficult for you?
It’s always a bit difficult to come into a new team, especially when there are other new players who are coming in. It takes some time. But soccer is still soccer, no matter who’s playing. Players adapt pretty quickly.
As I watched you at Sochaux, you played in a few different positions. It seems that here you’ve been put in the center of a three-man attacking midfield line in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Is that your preferred position?
It’s true that at Sochaux I played everywhere in the midfield. Here, in my opinion, I’ve been more focused on the center of the park and less out wide. At Sochaux I played some on the wings, and I also did that a bit in Orlando as well against Toronto, I think it was. So I’m used to playing everywhere, but playing in the center is much more of a natural fit.
It doesn’t matter too much whether it’s in more of an attacking or defensive role - to be in that central axis is what matters.
What do you think of Jack McInerney so far? He’s likely to be the forward who plays in front of you the most, so a lot of people will be watching how you work with him.
Yeah, he’s one of the guys who will be playing up there. There are others, but it’s important for his confidence that he has already scored this year. They’re players who I want to set up with good passes to help them score goals, and so that we all score goals. For now, though, it’s still early.
Finally, this weekend, you’re going to be playing on an artificial surface in Portland. The artificial surfaces in MLS sometimes frustrate foreign players. But you’ve had some experience with it already, because some French top-flight clubs use them. Do you think that gives you an advantage as you get set for your MLS debut?
It’s definitely always harder to play on artificial surfaces, but I think most players here are better able to deal with them because they’ve seen them before. There are more artificial surfaces here - in France there are just one or two. It’s not a problem for me because I grew up playing on artificial surfaces. But I don’t know if it’s an advantage for me because so many players here are used to them.