Paulo Nagamura nears return for Sporting KC

Midfielder back at training, hopes to be available for 2nd leg

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Paulo Nagamura is back to training at full speed with Sporting Kansas City, and the veteran midfielder could be match-ready as soon as next week's home leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"He's training. He won't be ready for this weekend, but he's training," Manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "If he gets through training this week without any problems, then hopefully he'll be ready for next week. We've got to monitor him, but he's in training full force, which is great. He's got fitness and everything else he's got to get through, so we'll have to see how he recovers from all of that.

Given the unforgiving artificial surface in New England, where Sporting meet the Revolution in Saturday's away leg (7pm, KSMO-TV), that timetable makes sense to Nagamura.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to help the team in the playoffs," he said after Wednesday's training session. "Every player wants to play in the playoffs. I want to come back as soon as I can, but we have to be smart, too. We don't want to rush things and have it happen again."

It is the persistent left ankle strain that held Nagamura to 17 league appearances this season and sidelined him for the last six matches after he aggravated the injury in early September. But after returning to light training last week and then to full sessions this week, Nagamura said he feels ready to go when he's cleared.

"I feel very comfortable, very stable in the ankle," he said. "It's just a matter of the bounce being on my side a little bit and me not having any setbacks."

Sporting's captain, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, said Nagamura's teammates are glad to see him back in full workouts.

"So beautiful," Nielsen said on Tuesday. "He's a huge key player for our team. If he can get back, that'd be outstanding."

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.