Nagamura makes good use of two opportunities
Paulo Nagamura’s job description involves a lot of hard running, a lot of timely tackling and a lot of defensive work in Chivas USA’s midfield.
On Saturday night, the 26-year-old Brazilian did all of that but also added a new and unexpected wrinkle.
He scored two goals in the space of five minutes -- only the fifth and sixth goals of his four-year and 113-game Major League Soccer career -- as Chivas came from behind to defeat the Colorado Rapids, 2-1, in the MLS season opener for both teams.
Colorado held the upper hand throughout the first half and took the lead in the 30th minute after a glaring error by goalkeeper Zach Thornton.
The veteran goalkeeper failed to hold on to a shot by Ugo Ihemelu, fumbling away the ball and allowing forward Omar Cummings to hammer it into the back of the net from close range.
“That was just my mistake,” Thornton said. “I have to do better than that, for sure. Sometimes that happens. Unfortunately, it happened on a game day, but Paulo bailed myself and the team out with two great goals tonight.”
Chivas still trailed 10 minutes into the second half, and that’s when Nagamura intervened.
First, he fired a low, hard shot toward the bottom left corner of the Colorado net. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens was slow to react and the ball had beaten him before he could scramble across to make a save.
“I had a perfect view of the goal and I hit it pretty well,” Nagamura said.
Less than five minutes later, it was defender Kosuke Kimura’s turn to make an error. In trying to clear the ball from inside his own penalty area, the league’s only Japanese player headed it straight to an unmarked Nagamura.
The Chivas midfielder reacted by slamming it into the back of the net to the delight of the 16,453 fans at the Home Depot Center, not to mention Thornton, who was taken off the hook.
“I just had time to take a touch and tried to go to the far corner [of the net],” Nagamura said.
When was the last time he scored twice in one game?
“In MLS, never,” Nagamura said. “That’s my first time, so I’m pretty excited.”
The goals might have come as the result of a decision by Coach Preki to allow Nagamura to take on more of an offensive role when the opportunity presents itself.
“He’s given me more freedom to go forward,” Nagamura said. “I still have to do my job defensively, but with more freedom to go up and down the field. That helped me today. I was pretty lucky to be in the right spot at the right time.”
The game represented the MLS debuts of three Chivas players. Forward Eduardo Lillingston looked ordinary in the first 45 minutes before being replaced by a much quicker and livelier Maykel Galindo in the second half.
Fellow Mexican Mariano Trujillo made a much more positive impression, playing solidly at right back even though right midfield is his preferred position. Rookie Michael Lahoud also made his debut.
But it was Nagamura’s night.