As the Sporting Kansas City franchise enacted a rebrand in late 2010, coach Peter Vermes developed a wish list of players to implement a grittier on-the-field product. At the top of the list, he labeled Paulo Nagamura an ideal fit, and during the following offseason, Vermes swung a trade to acquire the veteran midfielder.
Five years later, that perfect match came to a close Monday.
Well, sort of.
Nagamura used his social media accounts to announce his retirement from his playing career, but he has accepted an assistant coaching role with the Swope Park Rangers, Sporting KC’s development team.
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“Since my first day in Kansas City, you welcomed me with open arms; you believed in my potential; you treated me with respect and were supportive every step of the way,” Nagamura said on his Instagram account, addressing Sporting KC and its fans. “Please know that every time I played, I left my heart on the field and gave everything I had for you all.”
Nagamura, 33, entered MLS in 2005 and played his final five years in Kansas City. The club made the playoffs in all five seasons of his stay. He scored six goals and contributed seven assists in Kansas City. He successfully converted penalty kicks in the 2013 MLS Cup and the 2012 and 2015 U.S. Open Cup finals.
But perhaps the most memorable game of Nagamura’s career in Kansas City came on an August night in 2015 at Children’s Mercy Park. After Sporting KC trailed Vancouver by two late in the second half, Nagamura scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 4-3 comeback win — striking twice in the final seven minutes of the game.
“He’s one of the more mature players that I’ve dealt with,” Vermes said. “He was always really inquisitive and trying to start preparing for the (next step).
“He’s been one of the main contributors to our success. The fact that we can now add him to our technical staff and help develop players for the future (using) a guy who has been through it and has the right mentality, those are great assets to add to the overall mix.”
The transition to coaching has been nearly two years in the making, with Vermes and Nagamura sharing conversations on the topic over recent seasons.
A move to Swope Park fell into place. The Rangers staff had an opening after former head coach Marc Dos Santos departed in the offseason, which prompted the the promotion of former assistant Nikola Popovic.
“It’s a different position. I’ll have to learn, of course,” Nagamura said. “There’s so much we can learn as players all those years, but I think coaching is a more detailed position. I will learn from Niko, from Peter, from all the coaches. And I hope to improve my capabilities to help these young players grow.”