Nakazawa Fit, Motivated in Union Preseason

22-year-old out to capture larger role with Philadelphia in 2011

Before Philadelphia
Union disbanded for the offseason, midfielder Kyle Nakazawa talked about his
desire to become a more complete player at the professional level.

The UCLA product used
the term “box-to-box” to describe his intentions in 2011, a more attractive
label than the “set piece specialist” reputation he began to develop as a

With an eye towards
carving out a larger role during Philadelphia's second season, the
22-year-old went to work in the offseason.

“I was maintaining my fitness base, lifting, working on what
I wanted to do in the offseason, which is get stronger,” said Nakazawa, the 33
rd overall pick in last year’s MLS SuperDraft. “I took a
little time off from touching the ball, but I was trying to maintain my
strength and get ready for this preseason.”

Nakazawa also found time during the offseason to launch a soccer camp in Hawaii, boasting the likes of teammate Jordan Harvey and Seattle Sounders midfielder David Estrada (Nakazawa's teammate at UCLA) as instructors.

His entrepreneurial spirit didn't adversely affect his primary occupation, though, as Nakazawa’s hard work
is already paying off just two weeks into preseason. The former US youth
international finished second on the club in the dreaded “beep test” last week, one spot ahead of workhorse Sebastien Le Toux. The obvious hope for Nakazawa is
that a heightened fitness level will lead to more playing time, which in turn
would present an opportunity for increased production.

WATCH: Kyle and Sebastien's Crib

Looking back to Nakazawa’s
college days, particularly his senior season, there’s ample evidence of offensive explosiveness beyond what was on display last season. Nakazawa netted
12 goals and seven assists as a senior at UCLA, leading the Pac-10 in points.

After compiling 798
minutes and eight starts as a rookie with Philadelphia, the 2010 draft day
steal has plenty of room for growth – and he knows it.

“I am no longer a rookie,” Nakazawa explained, “so I think
for me (the goal) is just having a much bigger impact on the field every
opportunity I get. And it’s not just dead balls – my set pieces 
 it is being
dynamic in the attack. My role as a midfielder is playing box-to-box, playing
good defense and creating opportunities in the attack.”

With a continued
strong preseason, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Nakazawa figure into the
Union’s starting lineup on opening day. At the very least, his role as a
second-year player figures to expand, just as the club as a whole has increased
expectations in year two.

“I think we are very optimistic going into this new season,”
said Nakazawa. “We are not an expansion team anymore. We added a bunch of guys
that I think are going to help us in the long run.”

While he may not be a new face anymore, there's more to Nakazawa's game than Union fans have witnessed.

In 2011, his objective is to prove it.

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