Nagamura set to break Brazilian appearance record
CARSON, Calif. – During the 1996 inaugural MLS season, a young Brazilian striker named Wélton Araújo Melo joined the fledgling New England Revolution. At just 21 years of age, “Welton,” as he was known, had an almost immediate impact on the league.
He was named to the East squad in the first-ever MLS All-Star game and went on to make 29 appearances in his debut year. He then joined the LA Galaxy, where he scored 28 goals in two seasons and was once again named an MLS All-Star, in 1998.
When all was said and done, Welton made 144 MLS appearances and helped pave the way for Brazilians to find success in American soccer. Now, 14 years after Welton made his debut, Chivas USA’s Paulo Nagamura is poised to break his predecessor’s record and become the Brazilian with the most appearances in MLS.
Born in São Paulo, Nagamura is set to make his 145th appearance on Wednesday evening when the Goats take on San Jose.
“I feel very honored,” Nagamura told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Tuesday. “I think it’s a special thing. Knowing that Brazilians are all playing all over the world in different leagues – I’m very honored and very flattered to be the Brazilian with the most caps in this league.”
Nagamura joined MLS in 2005 when he signed with the LA Galaxy from English side Arsenal FC. He enjoyed immediate success, helping the Galaxy to both the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in his debut season. He played two seasons with LA before a quick transfer to Toronto FC and then a move to Chivas USA in 2007.
Since then, he has become a stalwart in the Red-and-White midfield and one of the most identifiable Chivas USA players. He is proud of his accomplishments in MLS and looks forward to more success in the league.
“The league is getting better financially and it’s growing up in the media,” Nagamura said. “America is also a good place to live with your family. I think there will be more and more Brazilians coming to the United States.”
Though he is happy to represent his country in MLS, Nagamura shies away from being labeled a “typically Brazilian” player, insisting that no such thing exists.
“Every Brazilian plays differently,” he said. “One fits better in the Spanish league, another fits better in the German league, another fits better in MLS. Maybe I am the one who best fits in MLS. I’ve very honored to be that Brazilian here.”
Still just 27 years old, Nagamura likely has a bright future ahead of him. For now, he will continue to serve as a leader for Chivas USA and a role model for future generations of Brazilian players who make the trip north to join MLS.
“This league is going to grow and grow and Brazilians are going to come even more to play here,” he said. “I feel welcome in the United States and am happy to be playing for Chivas in this league in this country. It’s been great.”