The Dynamo have their new man.
After an exhaustive search that extended to over 100 people, general manager Pat Onstad introduced Paulo Nagamura as head coach of Houston Dynamo FC in a press conference from PNC Stadium on Tuesday. And despite looking far and wide, it was clear to Onstad that Nagamura was the best possible option.
“In terms of the decision, it was very easy,” Onstad said. “I think from the first Zoom call, I remember getting off and talking to Nick Kowba and saying, ‘I really like this guy.’”
While the 38-year-old is only a few years removed from his playing days, which included 12 years as a midfielder throughout Major League Soccer, the former midfielder has been hard at work preparing for this role since deciding to hang up his cleats.
Following his retirement, Nagamura joined the technical staff of Sporting Kansas City’s USL affiliate as an assistant coach. He held this position for just one season before taking over the top job in 2018, a position that he held through 2021.
According to Onstad, it was this experience as a head coach that gave him the confidence that Nagamura would succeed in this role.
“I was speaking to an MLS coach and he actually made an interesting point,” Onstad said at the press conference. “He said, ‘I'd take a head coach over an assistant coach’ and he says ‘assistant coaches offer lots of opinions, but a head coach has to make decisions.’”
Despite these years of experience as a head coach, the two-time MLS Cup Champion is undoubtedly on the younger end of the spectrum in terms of MLS coaches. He is the second-youngest head coach in the league, and the youngest in franchise history. Nagamura, however, feels confident that he is ready to take on this challenge, regardless of his age.
“It is just a number,” Nagamura said. “I believe every coach has their own path. Every coach starts in a different way, for me, it doesn't mean anything. I'm ready for this challenge, I've been involved at the professional level for the last 20 plus years playing and coaching.”
Additionally, Nagamura is unconcerned about having only coached for one club since his playing days ended. He understands that coaches have found success in MLS with wildly different backgrounds, and pointed to a few key examples.
"Look at Bruce Arena, he started in lacrosse, right? Today he is one of the most decorated coaches in this league,” Nagamura said. “Peter Vermes, likewise, his first job was Sporting Kansas City and today he is one of the best coaches in MLS. Many coaches who were assistants are now MLS coaches. So, as I said before, each coach has their own path and I'm no different. I had my own path, and now I have to be the leader of this team."
Despite his confidence that he is ready for the job, the Sao Paulo native is also aware that his job will not be an easy one. After finishing last place in the Western Conference last year, the Dynamo have a lot of changes coming, changes that start with the team’s culture.
“I believe we have to change the culture and to rescue that identity that Houston had seven or eight years ago,” Nagamura said. “We need to implement the culture and that is a process. That's not an overnight project.”
As a result, Nagamura spent his first day on the job preaching patience and exuding confidence.
“The results over the last few years weren’t great, but we need to have patience, believe in the club, believe in the players, the technical staff, the owners, the club leadership,” Nagamura said. “Because that is the only way that we are going to change the results on the field. So, believe, have patience and with that there can be change.”