Not long after the Union’s second season concluded, Kyle Nakazawa was ready to continue playing.
“Let’s go guys, come on out,” he yelled to a couple teammates as they completed their exit interviews at PPL Park recently, igniting an impromptu pick-up game.
“We had such a great year that it’s natural to want to keep playing,” Nakazawa told philadelphiaunion.com. “We weren’t ready to end the season. I’m such a competitor that I always want to keep going. I thought we had a great chance to win and keep moving in the playoffs. It didn’t happen and we have to accept it and come back hungry next season.
“I’m still ready to play. I feel like we could have won if a few things had gone differently but that’s always the case.”
Nakazawa was left unprotected in the MLS Expansion Draft, but wasn’t selected by the Montreal Impact. Midfielder Justin Mapp was taken by the Impact with the club’s third pick.
Before the Expansion Draft, Nakazawa was hopeful that he would remain with the Union. After two seasons, he likes the direction of the franchise, the technical staff and the players surrounding him.
“I feel like my game has improved a lot since I got here and that’s in large part to the teaching by the coaches and the players here with the camaraderie we have,” Nakazawa said. “This is a great locker room. There are no egos. We all support each other. We all have a common goal and that’s to win.
“Sure, we all want to play every minute of every game, but that’s not always realistic. I come in every day and work as hard as I can. I try to take advantage of my opportunities when they’re presented.”
Nakazawa played in 22 games this season, starting 14. He had one goal and three assists in 1,208 minutes.
As one of only eight remaining players who were with Philadelphia at the beginning of the 2010 season, it was satisfying watching the club improve so drastically in year two.
“I feel like we were a completely different club this season,” Nakazawa said. “We went through ups and downs but stayed together because of the leadership on this club. We made the playoffs and got the third seed. We got better as a club. Even when things weren’t going well, nobody sulked or pointed fingers. We stayed together as one and it was great to see.
“I think it’s so bright for us in the future with the talent here on this club. I want to be a part of it, sure. I think the young players, veteran players, everyone – we all get along and are on the same page. It’s not always like that.”
While Nakazawa would love to still be competing, he does welcome the mental break at the end of a long season.
Following a brief period of rest and relaxation, he'll assume the role of camp director for a second straight year. After launching a soccer camp in Hawaii last year, Nakazawa will be hosting the Second Annual Soccer Hawaii Camp from Dec. 20-22.
“I had a great time doing the camp last year and I’m excited for it again,” Nakazawa said. “I want to make it an annual event. It was so much working with the kids last year. Seeing how into soccer they were gave me a boost of excitement as well. It’s something I feel very strongly about because it’s a chance to promote this great sport while working with kids, who are the future of this sport.”