Raves / Union

Raves: Kyle Nakazawa

Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks, PSP contributors will be posting what we’re calling “raves” about some of our favorite Philadelphia players. They need not be the team’s best players, but they’re guys we like. You hear plenty of rants when the Union or Independence are losing. Here are the raves, continuing with Conor’s rave about Philadelphia Union midfielder Kyle Nakazawa.

So while we’re “raving,” let’s take a look at the underutilized. McInerney comes to mind, but that’s too obvious (and has more to do with transfer rules than his actual merit as a player).

There is one man, though, who could have an incredible impact on the team, if applied correctly. His name is Nakazawa. Kyle Nakazawa. And the gap between his potential and his actual impact exceeds that of anyone else in the organization.

Let’s start at the beginning—Kyle’s Kredentials include a starting role in the US U-17 team for the FIFA World Youth Championships, where he led in assists (a foreshadowing of what he could do for us). He was a college star at UCLA, making waves in the Pac-10 and appearing for a couple USL teams on the side. Finally, in the year of ZOLO, the U picked him up at the SuperDraft.

And here he is—a hustler, a ball-mover, and an eerily calm presence for someone who gets so few minutes that every one of them must feel like an audition. He does things that take, more than anything, steely nerves and presence of mind.  Things like winning the ball and (most importantly) taking precise, powerful, and Jesus-Christ-somebody-get-on-the-end-of-that free and corner kicks.

Nakazawa fights to rise above. (Photo by Nicolae Stoian.)

A set piece kicker of his caliber is a terrible thing to waste. Perhaps if the Union were as adept at drawing fouls as they have been at committing them, we would’ve seen some more dynamite outta this guy. But alas, we haven’t. What we have seen is that every time the ball is placed before him, he knocks the stuffing out of it. With accuracy.

Unfortunately, we only get to see this when some fresh legs are needed or someone like Miglioranzi is hurt. This brings up the obvious dilemma: hypothetically, who would Nak replace in the starting lineup? Personally, I’m more excited to see him on the pitch than Migs, but Nakazawa might not be as consistently good a midfielder overall.

Naturally, the midfield is a place where workrate and reliability matter more than gunslinging on set pieces. Whether Nakazawa is as good with the former as with the latter is yet to be seen. Assuming he is, though, think about what this could mean to the rest of the shape.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux seems to play every position, even to the point of being out of position sometimes because he’s covering the entirety of the field for 90 minutes week in and week out. He might as well sleep there, right on the pitch under the starry Chester sky.

This work rate, though phenomenal, has to catch up with him at some point, either in the form of mild (if unnoticeable) fatigue, or in the form of out-of-postion-ness. What if Sebastien Le Toux were able to rely on a great midfielder who can win the ball, “jump start counterattacks” (as the Union website’s official description of Nakazawa claims), and place the ball with accuracy? My logic tells me that it would mean even more goals from our MVP, who would be free to focus on the enemy’s third instead of the entire Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Then there’s the issue of set pieces, where Nakazawa could have the most impact on both the team as a whole and on Sebastien. Le Toux takes, to my frustration, the vast majority of all Union free and corner kicks. Sometimes he scores directly, sometimes it makes an assist. But overall, Le Toux’s set pieces aren’t THAT great. Not great in the way that he is overall. Frankly, his corners especially are…eh.

What if Le Toux was able to keep his ass in the box in these situations, fighting for the ball? Again—sounds like a recipe for more goals, especially when you consider the sheer quality of Nakazawa’s free kicks. No one on this team does it better. Period.

The last point to be made in the case for Nakazawa is this: my friends in section 135 have come up with a chant for him that’s just too good to waste. As Mr. Nakazawa lined up the corners he was able to take last week, my fellow SoB’s sang, to the tune of the backup in MJ’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”:

Mama say mama sa Na-ka-za-wa! Mama say mama sa Na-ka-za-wa! Mama say mama sa Na-ka-za-wa!

It’s even more fun to say after a couple of those 24-ouncers. But don’t take my word for it—hopefully the future will bring more chances to cheer for the mighty, underused Kyle Nakazawa.


  1. Yes! Totally agreed. Nakazawa could grow into a quality distributor in the middle if he gets a good run. He has great range with his passing and I bet he can send a rocket on net in open play too.

  2. Not so sure I agree. Yes, great dead ball accuracy, but below average in everything else. He seems like a liability during the run of play. But he’s still young and could mature into a more solid all-around player.

    • Roman obviously has minimal knowledge of the game because Nakazawa is far from below average in every aspect of the game. His touch is well above average for the MLS and he rarely turns the ball over.

  3. I definitely agree. Nakazawa was by far one of the best players on the field against the Galaxy. He continually out played David Beckham in the middle. Too bad it was late in the year and we didn’t get a chance to see him flourish with more playing time. As a Union fan, I’m happy thought since the nucleus is young and our future is bright.

  4. Soccerdad1150 says:

    Naka is the real deal. He’ll get more playing time, either here or in Europe. His quick play is quite suitable to many European teams. Plus, he does great shots!

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