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New Dynamo Coach Nagamura on his time with Sporting KC II

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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.

News Round-Up





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Sporting KC acquires winger Marinos Tzionis 

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Sporting Kansas City announced the addition of another young player with the signing of 20-year-old winger Marinos Tzionis from Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus. Tzionis has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2024 with an option for 2025 and will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

Tzionis has been rumored for a little over a week and he is the third young international signing this month. Robert Voloder was announce on Jan 19th and is a 20-year-old German center back. Logan Ndenbe a 21-year-old Belgian left back signed on Jan 14th. All eligible for the MLS U-22 Initiative.

SKC manager Peter Vermes and staff will likely not designate who is or is not a U-22 Initiative player until roster deadline day shortly before the season. They can take their time to decide while adding other potential players.

Just this morning, reports were coming in that he had signed and gave some numbers around the acquisition The reported transfer fee was said to be between €1.5 and €2 million, between $1.69 and $2.26 million in US Dollars and Omonia would retain 10 percent of any sell on fee. It was also reported that Tzionis would be paid €300,000 plus bonuses, $338,880 in US dollars.

Tzionis was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus and grew up playing for Omonia Nicosia’s academy before signing for their first team as a 15-year-old in 2017 and made his first appearance for them in 2018. The young winger made a few appearances for the first team over the next couple of years but he started to really be noticed in the 2020-21 season. Seven goals in 43 appearances and helping his club to first place with a 23-3-10 record.

The young attacker has also represented his country at the U-17 and U-19 youth levels and then the senior team starting in 2020 with a total of 13 appearances.

Tzionis is right-footed and mainly plays on the left wing where Vermes tends to like wingers who can cut inside. He has some time at attacking mid and second striker as well.

Highlights of goals.



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Report: DC United signing Greek forward Taxiarchis Fountas as Designated Player

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Fountas has a track record as a leading goalscorer in Austria’s top flight, netting 35 times in 68 league appearances. He broke onto the professional ranks in Greece with AEK Athens from 2011-13 before heading to Red Bull Salzburg.

The club’s forward group is currently headlined by Ola Kamara, who finished second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race last season with 19 goals in 28 games, ceding the top honors to NYCFC‘s Valentin Castellanos via the assists tiebreaker.

D.C., heading into their second year under head coach Hernan Losada, missed an Eastern Conference spot in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs by one point.





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Not another Freddy Adu: RSL’s Axel Kei ready for challenge as youngest-ever MLS signing

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You can draw the comparison if you must. He’s ready for that. In fact, this month’s milestone is actually the second time he’s broken one of Adu’s marks, having already made his pro debut back in October, when he appeared for Real Monarchs in USL Championship action on an academy contract. Kei was 13 years, 8 months and 9 days for the first record; he was 14 years and 15 days for the second.

“The whole pressure of Freddy Adu and all that stuff. I saw all that, I read all the articles, I watched all the YouTube videos,” noted Kei. “Of course there’s going to be people that want to see – ‘oh, this kid, we heard this kid is good, he’s out here breaking records, whatever, I want to see what he has, see what he got.’

“I’m not letting that get into my head. This is just like, I’m still gonna be me. I’m still gonna train. Not because people are saying they want to see this, they want to see that, that I’m gonna change my playing style. It’s just the way I am, I’m not going to change this. I’m still going to be the same Axel Kei, I’m still gonna play how I play. It’s just focusing on what I like to do – soccer.”

If you’re struggling to set a fair barometer for Kei, consider that Beltran and his colleagues at Zions Bank Training Center know all about Adu’s story. How burdensome a record like that and the comparisons it generates can be. And yet Kei’s abilities are so striking, his upward trajectory already so steep, that they could not avoid the conclusion that Salt Lake should sign him now anyway.





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