Kansas City lost it’s second soccer coach of the day. After the KC Current announced they were moving Huw Williams to another position on the staff and he’d no longer be the head coach, Sporting KC II joined them in announcing 2022 will bring a new coach to Sporting Kansas City’s second team.
The move seems to be a mutual agreement and comes on the heels of Nagamura reportedly missing out on the Chicago Fire job. The team said, “Paulo Nagamura has ended his tenure as the club’s head coach to pursue other professional opportunities.” Obviously, Nagamura had a somewhat poor record with SKC II, but also he was tasked less with winning and more with developing young talent.
He has a good track record on young players seeing quite a few players either make the transition from SKC II to the first team, or managing first team players down on loan in the USL Championship. However, the team took a step back in 2021 after playing 14 of 16 games on the road in 2020 and finding a good deal of success, the team won just four times over 32 games.
Paulo was the team’s third ever head coach and the least successful in it’s history after they shifted to a youth movement. Nagamura ends with a 31-60-25 regular season record (2-1 in the playoffs), winning just 26 percent of his games he coached. The team’s first coach, former Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc dos Santos, won 50 percent of his games (17-11-6) and it’s second coach, Nikola Popovic, won 55 percent (20-9-7). Both prior coaches made it to the USL Championship Cup final, but lost. Nagamura just made the playoffs just once in his four seasons at the helm, but did make it to the Conference Finals that season.
Again, a lot of that is Sporting’s shift to youth development, but it’s still a brutal track record. In terms of development, he coached 15 Homegrown players and an additional 23 Academy products.
“It was an amazing honor to be a part of the Sporting KC II technical staff for the last five years and a privilege to start my professional coaching career at a club that means so much to me,” Nagamura said. “I want to thank Sporting Kansas City ownership, Peter Vermes and the entire organization for the opportunity. I have learned a lot during my time here and will always be grateful for this special experience.”
“We thank Paulo for his fantastic service to the club and the impact he has made within our professional pathway,” said Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director. “He was an excellent leader and mentor for all players at our club and will always be a part of the Sporting family. Paulo has a very bright future ahead of him and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Who will be the next coach?
No news has come out, but we can look at previous trends. Each of the last two times there has been a vacancy, an assistant has gotten the job. Popovic was dos Santos’ assistant and Naga was Popovic’s. The most prominent assistant on the staff is Chris Martinez. Martinez, 50, is a former MLS player, like Nagamura. He played for the Colorado Rapids from 1997 to 2001. Prior to that he played indoor soccer for the Wichita Wings and outdoor for the Colorado Foxes (across a couple leagues) before and during the launch of MLS.
There will no doubt be requests from fans for another former Sporting KC player to take the reigns. Matt Besler recently retired. Benny Feilhaber is already on the Sporting KC staff. Seth Sinovic retired as well (though he already has a new career outside of soccer). And while he’s currently still active, Roger Espinoza is pursuing a coaching license and could be a candidate for retirement as his deal ends after this season.
I have no inside information, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. It’s an interesting job. SKC II will not be in the USL Championship next year, but will be in the MLS division three league, one tier below the USL on the US Soccer pyramid. The details of that new league aren’t known, but it seems it’ll be heavily bent towards youth development but potentially against lesser competition, so winning could be easier to come back.
Best of luck to Paulo Nagamura in his future endeavors.