The cut on Paulo Nagamura’s left cheek had opened up again. He was bleeding through his bandage.
No matter. There was a penalty kick to be taken. Two, as it turned out. And there was an eight-year silverware drought to break.
After four shootout rounds in Wednesday night’s US Open Cup final, Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders were tied 2-2. Nagamura (above, right) stepped to the spot, fired – and saw goalkeeper Michael Gspurning dive to knock the shot away.
Nagamura didn’t move. He knew another chance was coming – and this time, he made good, burying the Cup-winner just inside the left post.
“I actually told the referee before I took the [first] PK, because he was off his line for every penalty kick,” Nagamura told MLSsoccer.com. “The second one went in, and then I just waited for them to miss it.”
The usually soft-spoken Brazilian, who joined Sporting from Chivas USA in the offseason, even indulged in a bit of boasting.
“If he wasn’t off his line,” Nagamura said, “he never could have saved my PK.”
Manager Peter Vermes, whose club won its first Cup title since 2004, praised Nagamura’s presence of mind in the clutch situation.
“When Naga hit his, and the goalkeeper moved, it was fantastic how he kept his focus and scored the next one,” Vermes said. “He just struck it beautifully.”
That approach was born out of repeated drills from the spot in recent training sessions, Vermes said.
“We’ve been spending almost the last two weeks now doing PKs,” he said. “That’s something we’ve really been working on, methodically.”
Nagamura played much of the game with butterfly bandages and a gauze pad on his cheek, after a collision early in the first half that left him on the pitch for more than a minute.
“I think I’m probably going to need stitches,” he said.
But that could wait. There was a title to celebrate.