GALAXY: Nakazawa in 'happiest' days
“Happiest couple days of my career so far,” he beamed when the session was over. “You know, I couldn't be happier -- being back home, playing in front of family and friends, and, of course, playing for the defending champs, a great organization. I couldn't be happier.”
The former UCLA All-American from Palos Verdes Estates arrives after two years with the Philadelphia Union, where he started 22 of his 36 Major League Soccer appearances but struggled to find a regular role in Peter Nowak's system. He had heard word of talks between the clubs before, “but nothing materialized, and then the last couple days things kind of came together.”
The deal, with the Galaxy also picking up a 2013 second-round draft pick and surrendering an international slot for this season, was finalized Wednesday afternoon Philly time, “and I was on a plane back here already,” Nakazawa said. “I was happy for what happened in Philadelphia. It was a good two years. But like I say, I couldn't be happier to be back home playing here.”
The 23-year-old midfielder, who played for the Irvine Strikers and at Peninsula High School before joining the U.S. under-17 national team's Florida residency in advance of the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup, adds to L.A.'s deepening midfield. He provides head coach Bruce Arena another option -- to go with former Bruins teammate Michael Stephens and three second-year players, playmaker Paolo Cardozo, organizer Dan Keat and winger Hector Jimenez -- behind the anticipated first-choice quartet: Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Marcelo Sarvas and Mike Magee.
“I think he's a very good two-way player,” Arena said. “He plays simple. He's a very good competitor. In the college level he could score goals; at the professional level we saw that he was a very good player on set pieces, serving balls, hitting free kicks. He's got some qualities that we can use on our team.”
Nakazawa likely won't get the chance in too many dead-ball situations -- David Beckham is the Galaxy's primary set-piece taker, and Landon Donovan is No. 2 -- but his versatility will come in handy as Arena rotates his lineup among at least 41 competitive matches. Nakazawa is a central midfielder by trade but can play on the flanks, too, especially with the Galaxy, which doesn't use its wide midfielders as out-and-out wingers.
“I'm just looking to help this team in any form I'm asked upon,” Nakazawa said. “Any position on the field that Bruce and the coaching staff wants me to step up and play, I'm willing to do, and just work as hard as I can and help the team get another championship.”
He describes himself as a “linking player” who is “trying to grow myself more into a box-to-box midfielder” and realizes adding goals to his résumé is part of his evolution “to become a complete professional.” He scored 20 at UCLA, but has just one (and three assists) in MLS play. He started 14 games last year as the second-year Union qualified for the postseason, but Nowak has turned over his roster during the offseason. Nakazawa was the 13th departure.
“I don't know what's going on, but I know there's a lot of changes, and, you know, I was one of those players going out,” he said. “But I think the situation worked out well for me.”
Nakazawa spent several minutes after training taking with Stephens, Magee, UCLA assistant coach Kenny Arena and defender Todd Dunivant.
“I played with him four years at UCLA. We had a really good time there,” Stephens said. “He's a close friend of mine, so I'm just happy to have him around in general. ... He's a really good player and a really technical player and someone who is going to help our team.”
Dunivant says he's a fan.
“I've always liked Kyle,” he said. “He trained with us when he was at UCLA, and I trained with him before he got drafted -- there's a group of us who go out in the offseason and play in a pick-up game. I was really impressed with him as a player. And he's a good guy in the locker room.”
WORTH NOTING: Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, asked by The Seattle Times whether he was looking for forwards, referenced the Galaxy's big move this week. “Certainly with Edson Buddle coming back to the league, it raises questions: 'What is the Galaxy going to do with a Chad Barrett? Is he going to play a lot? What's going to go on?' Vancouver now has a boat-full of forwards, so what are they going to do with all their guys? ... So some of those guys might become available.” ... The Alessandro Del Piero-to-the-Galaxy rumors have resurfaced, all starting with Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo's admission to his club's website last week that talks with the Italian star's reps ended because “we were advised by his group in August 2011 that Alessandro would rather focus on New York or Los Angeles.” The Red Bulls have an open Designated Player slot, but the Galaxy doesn't -- and hopes not to for at least another two years, when Del Piero would be 39. Del Piero also has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain. ... ... Jack McBean has returned to training. ... Supplemental draft selection Chris Leitch announced his retirement to become technical director of San Jose's academy.
ELSEWHERE: In other MLS news ...
- San Jose signed Colombian midfielder Tressor Moreno, 33, from Chile's Santiago Wanderers. Moreno played for Necaxa, Veracruz and San Luis in Mexico.
- D.C. United signed its second Designated Player: Albanian forward Hamdi Salihi, 28, from Austria's Rapid Vienna.
- New England signed Colombian forward Jose “Pepe” Moreno on loan from Once Caldas.
- Toronto FC signed Chilean defender Miguel Aceval from Universidad de Concepcion.
- Portland signed longtime U.S. youth national teams midfielder Charles Renken, who played last year in German Bundesliga club 1899 Hoffenheim's system.
- Vancouver signed Camilo to a new contract, factoring in a decent raise. The Brazilian forward scored 12 goals for the Whitecaps last year.