Paulo Nagamura has been named the new head coach of the Swope Park Rangers, the club announced on Monday.
Nagamura, a former midfielder for Sporting Kansas City, becomes the third head coach in Rangers history after serving as an assistant for the club in 2017. This season he helped guide SPR to their second straight Western Conference championship and an appearance in the 2017 USL Cup Final.
“It’s an amazing feeling and a great honor to become the head coach of Swope Park Rangers,” Nagamura said. “I want to thank Sporting KC ownership, Peter Vermes and the entire organization for this opportunity. I will do everything I can to reach our objective of developing and preparing young players to make an impact on the first team.”
“Paulo’s transition from Sporting KC player to Swope Park Rangers assistant coach was seamless this year because he has a great understanding of our club culture and system of play,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. “With his knowledge base and experience competing at the highest level, Paulo is well prepared to develop players well into the future as they progress along our professional pathway. This will make him an excellent head coach and mentor for young players as they grow within our club.”
Upon his retirement as a player, Nagamura began his coaching career at the start of 2017 under Swope Park Rangers head coach Nikola Popovic. The Rangers ended the regular season with a 17-8-7 record and became the first team in USL history to make two consecutive appearances in the USL Cup Final, narrowly falling 1-0 at Louisville City FC in the championship game on Nov. 13.
As the Rangers’ head coach, Nagamura will have an integral role in the development of Sporting KC Academy products as well as players looking to make the jump to Major League Soccer. The Rangers fielded nine Sporting KC Academy products during the 2017 campaign, with former Academy players accounting for nearly 25 percent of the team’s playing time. Additionally, four SPR players earned MLS contracts throughout the year, including current Sporting KC forward Kharlton Belmar, defender Amer Didic and midfielder James Musa.
Nagamura — who becomes the third-youngest active head coach in the USL at age 34 — concluded a 12-year MLS playing career in 2016 as a winner of two MLS Cups and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. He played 269 MLS matches from 2005-2016, competing in eight separate editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
During a five-year spell at Sporting KC from 2012-2016, Nagamura helped Sporting KC win three major championships and make the MLS Cup Playoffs each season. He logged 119 appearances for the club in all competitions, playing 120 minutes in the 2012 and 2015 U.S. Open Cup Finals as well as the 2013 MLS Cup. He converted his penalty kick in the shootout of each cup final victory, solidifying his status as a revered competitor and fan-favorite.
Nagamura, a native of Brazil, joined the youth ranks of his hometown club Sao Paulo FC in 1994 and moved to storied English side Arsenal FC in 2001. He signed for the LA Galaxy in 2005, where he won the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in his first professional season at the senior level. Nagamura continued his MLS journey with Toronto FC (2007) and Chivas USA (2007-2011), landing MLS All-Star accolades in 2009.
The two-time defending Western Conference champion Swope Park Rangers will return to the field in 2018 when the United Soccer League expands to a 34-game regular season slate.