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Blue Notes: New Dynamo Coach Nagamura on his time with Sporting KC II

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Plus the NWSL’s Utah Royals set to return, Sporting Kansas City’s roster build status, a possible future Homegrown signing and all the MLS transfer news and rumors.

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Thad Bell

As had been previously rumored, former Sporting Kansas City II coach Paulo Nagamura, is now the head coach of MLS rival the Houston Dynamo. As a part of his hiring, he’s doing the rounds in interviews and I doubt most of you care about the Dynamo, so I went digging for SKC II and Peter Vermes morsels. The best comments I came across were from Jeff Rueter at The Athletic (which, by the way, is being sold to the New York Times for $550 million).

That story is behind the paywall, but The Athletic is always running specials and I actually have five 30-day guest passes I never seem to give out (put your email in the comments and I’ll do that today for the first five or DM me on Twitter over @PlayFor90).

So, since you may not be able to view it, here are the highlights with ties to SKC II.

Jeff Rueter: During your four years coaching Sporting Kansas City II, how much freedom did you have to run the team tactically independent from what the MLS first team was doing?

Paulo Nagamura: No, not much ability to be honest with you. I think we had to play the Sporting KC style. I had the ability to sometimes make subs and change a little bit at the end of the game, but for most of the time, we had to keep the philosophy of the club going. It was just a natural part of coaching a second team, and it has to be. The important part is the first team, so we need to give young players playing time, even if we (the second team coaches) didn’t want to.

That definitely confirms what we’ve long thought to be true. It’s Peter Vermes’ show and the man in charge of Sporting II is executing on that plan. Particularly around tactics and who got playing time. Not surprising, but good confirmation.

JR: Having coached at a USL affiliate for the past few years, are you looking for young players to step up, whether it’s from the Dynamo Academy or maybe players who have come in from elsewhere, and have them be able to play crucial roles from the start?

PN: Yeah, absolutely. Look, Houston is a huge city; I mean, the player pool is massive. From what I’ve heard, the academy here has made some gigantic strides. It’s a great source of talent, so we’re not gonna overlook those players and are going to give those guys a chance. We’re going to assess them, talk to academy directors and the youth academy coaches to make sure that we are assessing them and giving the guys who deserve the opportunity to be at the next level.

This is somewhere the Dynamo have been absolutely abysmal. Sifting through their Homegrown players who are pros shows only Memo Rodriguez being a borderline star and Tyler Deric a semi-regular contributor. Considering Houston is the country’s fourth largest city, that’s freaking terrible. However, their USL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Toros, don’t have the same arrangement SKC and SKC II have and Naga just said above he at times was forced to play guys he didn’t want to play. To a certain extent, if they don’t play, they can’t get better.

JR: I was watching some footage of how SKC II was playing in 2021 leading up to this interview. Something that really stood out to me was your midfield’s movement, the rotation to mark players and cut down passing lanes very quickly and aggressively. A lot of that will come with Kansas City, but do you view your own approach as something of positional play?

PN: I have my idea. I think I have to assess the squad and the players to see if they’re able to do that, but yes: it’s positional play that is going to be played based on the possession of the ball. Again, it’s a combined work and I need to assess the players to see if they can adapt to it. It’s a new system, a new style of play. We are going to have to see what’s gonna work best for the team.

Nagamura has his work cut out for him as Houston finished dead last in the Western Conference behind both other abysmal Texas teams, FC Dallas and Austin FC.

A Future SKC Homegrown?

Saint Louis University said another one of their players could sign a Homegrown contract after Patrick Weah joined Minnesota United. Fellow TBT writer Mike Kuhn did the work on this one and points out former SKC Academy and SKC II player, Mason Leeth, is on SLU’s team (though there is no indication he is who they are referring to). He played right back in two of his three appearances with the second team (randomly he played CF in the dying minutes of another game).

I can’t see him signing with the first team unless he’s improved drastically (though reports are he’s incredibly fast). He could hardly get on the field with the II’s. Maybe he’ll sign a two and two. Two years with SKC II, two years with SKC deal, like Jake Davis apparently did (full disclosure, I absolutely missed this but Thad pointed it out to me yesterday). SKC are in need of fullbacks.

NWSL Expansion

As a part of the deal that brought the then Utah Royals back to Kansas City (sort of) as the now Kansas City Current, the future owner of Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs would be given an opportunity to field a new NWSL team. Our frenemies over at RSL Soapbox have confirmed that the newly announced owners plan to do just that.

The new ownership group, run by David Blitzer, said, “I think the best way to say is that’s from our perspective, that’s a function of when, not if. We’re at day one, but this has been an important item that [co-owner] Ryan [Smith] and I have talked about a lot, and we’re very excited to bring in NWSL team back to this marketplace.”

The plan is for the 2023 or 2024 season.

Doyle’s SKC Roster Build Status

MLSsoccer.com’s Matt Doyle does his best to go an inch deep on 28 teams (thanks for that line Thad!), this time with the MLS Western Conference. I get that he can’t know everything about all the teams like we can know about the one team we pay attention to, but his take that Andreu Fontas “became a liability in the stretch run” feels harsh considering he gave his DPOY vote to him. As fellow TBT writer Mike Kuhn pointed out to me on Slack, why not stick with SKC is old? That’s a narrative that has legs, as Mike pointed out in his deep dive analysis.

Outside of that it feels mostly accurate, though he does say that Gadi Kinda’s DP deal can be bought down. I’m not sure that it can if his rumored transfer fee is accurate. Couple that with the amount of years on his deal and his annual salary and it doesn’t add up. He was originally announced as a TAM player, but that was when he was on loan. After 2020, when that loan was made into an official transfer, his transfer fee plus salary made him a DP. We’ll never officially know his fee, but he’s on a three year deal and made over $900k last year. That would only leave about $700,000 per season in pro-rated transfer fees to keep him under DP status. His rumored fee was $3.7 million. That would shatter the $1,612,500 threshold.

This is where some roster transparency in MLS would be nice.

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