When the 2022 Major League Soccer season kicks off this weekend, the Dynamo sidelines will feature nearly an entirely new coaching staff. New head coach Paulo Nagamura has brought in three new coaches to fill out his technical staff in assistant coaches Jimmy Nielsen and Chris Martinez, as well as a new goalkeeper coach in Zack Thornton.  

In the week leading up to the Dynamo’s opening game against Real Salt Lake on February 27, Dynamo fans will want to familiarize themselves with some of these new faces, starting with the White Puma himself, Jimmy Nielsen. 

Longtime fans of MLS may recognize Nielsen from his four years as the goalkeeper for Sporting Kansas City. Nielsen and Nagamura were teammates for two seasons in SKC, including in 2013, when the two veterans led the team to an MLS Cup Championship. 

Nielsen said it was during these years he spent playing with Nagamura that he developed a respect for Nagamura’s approach to the game, an approach that he says has carried over to his coaching style. 

“His playing style has transferred to who he is as a coach,” Nielsen said. “I have deep respect for the work that he's doing and when he called, it was a no-brainer. He's tough, gives everything that he has. He holds himself accountable and holds his teammates accountable. He was a player who would lead by example every single day. I have a deep respect for his whole attitude.” 

Nielsen experienced an illustrious playing career prior to making his way to Major League Soccer. Born in Denmark, he earned his first professional opportunity playing for English side Millwall in 1994. While there, the 17-year-old Nielsen served as the backup to U.S. Men’s National Team legend Kasey Keller.  

Nielsen then returned to his native country, where he quickly became the starting keeper for AaB Fodbold. During his 12-year run with the club, Nielsen was a part of numerous successful teams, including the 1998–99 Danish Superliga championship winning side. 

From there, Nielsen returned to England for a brief stint with Leicester City before joining Danish club Vejle Boldklub in 2008. 

It was while at that team that SKC manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes contacted Nielsen, asking him to make his way across the Atlantic. In Nielsen’s four seasons playing in MLS, he was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012, was a two-time MLS All-Star and won the 2013 MLS Cup playing alongside Nagamura. 

Despite enjoying spectacular success as a player, Nielsen was hungry for more, and immediately went into coaching following his retirement in 2013. Since then, he has served as the head coach of two United Soccer League teams, Oklahoma City Energy and the Hartford Athletic. 

Now, joining the Dynamo, Nielsen is serving as an assistant coach for the first time in his career. Despite the differences that exist between the two jobs, he says that the adjustment has not been difficult for him.  

“In my playing career, I had some amazing assistant coaches. When I was the head coach, I had some amazing assistant coaches,” Nielsen said. “You know, making that transition is not even something I've been thinking about. It just comes naturally.” 

Nielsen, who moved to Houston with his wife and youngest daughter, says he is looking forward to getting to experience more of the city. 

“So far, we like what we've seen,” Nielsen said. “We haven't really gotten to see the city really. Not enough, anyway. But what we've seen and the people we have met so far, it's only been very, very positive.”