Antonio Nocerino to be game-day decision for Orlando City

Antonio Nocerino will be a last-minute decision for Orlando City’s game against the Chicago Fire on Friday at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath told reporters during the team’s training session on Wednesday at Sylvan Lake Park.

“Antonio has trained more each day. He’ll be a game-day decision,” Heath said. “He’s got a great personality. You think he’s been here three years, not three minutes, but he’s going to be a really good addition. Obviously, he’s a really great footballer, and I didn’t realize his finishing was as good as it was after yesterday.”

With the former AC Milan midfielder still on the hinges of seeing Major League Soccer action for the first time on Friday, Heath hinted if Nocerino does play against Chicago, he could be limited to playing less than 90 minutes, adding training with the team on short notice doesn’t always replicate to match-day fitness.

Colombian winger Carlos Rivas, who is still nursing an ankle injury that he sustained last week, was training apart from the team with Conor Donovan.

“Carlos is getting better by the day,” Heath added. “This weekend comes a little early for him but we expect him certainly to be available for New York — maybe on the bench on Friday.”

Darwin Cerén is suspended for Friday’s game after receiving a red card this past Sunday in Orlando’s 2-2 season-opening draw against Real Salt Lake.

Don’t take your chances

Orlando City’s 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake this past Sunday was so offbeat that a good amount of fans began to exit the Citrus Bowl as the game headed toward a potential 2-0 loss against the 2009 MLS Cup champions.

Add two goals in less than 30 seconds in the final moments of stoppage time, and you’re taking a chance, Heath said.

“I can understand it sometimes because it took me an hour to get away from the stadium,” Heath said jokingly. “The most important thing is anything can happen in the game of football, and that proved it this weekend. If you leave, you might miss one of the most incredible moments that you’ll ever see watching [soccer].

“I remember Manchester United scoring two goals in a European cup final against Bayern Munich — two [goals] in a minute,” Heath said. “Everybody thought the game was over. [It was the] biggest night in Man United’s history. Some people who were looking forward to it for 40 to 50 years missed it. If you want to leave early, you’re taking chances.”

Training observations

One notable observation from the team’s training session on Wednesday was Orlando City’s back line training with assistant coach Mark Watson on defending long-ball passes.

The defenders featured Rafael Ramos, Tommy Redding, Seb Hines and Brek Shea, who were denying those long-ball passes from Aurélien Collin.

If you can recall, Servando Carrasco launched one of those passes for Adrian Winter’s eventual game-tying goal.

“It’s just basic principles of defending, which were one or two things I felt we were a bit loose on this [past] weekend,” said Heath regarding those drills.

Hadji Barry and Richie Laryea did not train with the first team. Both players played for Orlando City B in a Tuesday scrimmage and rested on Wednesday.

Ricardo Kaká, who is recovering from a thigh-strain injury, was not training with the team on Wednesday.

Heath told reporters he’s pain-free now and Friday’s game against Chicago is too soon for him to return, making the opportunity to see his first minutes of the 2016 campaign at Yankee Stadium against New York City FC on March 18 more likely.

Former Brazilian international Júlio Baptista trained with Orlando City on Wednesday. According to an Orlando City official, the former Real Madrid midfielder was a guest player and nothing else.

It is worth noting the Lions have all 10 international slots filled. So, if Orlando were to pursue the veteran attacker, it will require an international player being traded, sold or being loaned down to OCB to open up an international slot.

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


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