Nagamura's early exit a blessing in disguise for Sporting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Paulo Nagamura's early exit from Sporting Kansas City's regular-season finale was more precaution than necessity.

Nagamura sustained a sprained left ankle in the 27th minute of Sporting's 2-1 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday night, and came out in the 33rd after getting taped up and returning to the pitch.

“I think he just made the decision that, 'It’s probably best for me to get out,’” manager Peter Vermes said after his club's East-clinching win. “And I think it was the right decision at the end, because when he was getting ready to get back on, I said, 'Hey, look – if you feel anything, just get off. We can put somebody else on – no problem.’”

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Jacob Peterson came on for Nagamura and delivered Sporting's first goal in the 40th minute – his first tally since July 14.

“It's obviously difficult to come into a game like that,” Peterson said. “It's hard to get caught up. The pace is high, and with a limited warm up it's harder to get in. Luckily, I think [the goal] was maybe my second touch, so that gets you into the game a little more.”

Nagamura was examined by team doctors on Thursday – and while the results were not immediately available, Vermes said he expects Nagamura to be available for Sporting's playoff opener on Nov. 3.

“The great thing is we've got 10 days,” Vermes said. “He's a tough dude.”

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Sporting rested Roger Espinoza for a second straight match as the midfielder continues to recover from a right ankle sprain suffered in a 1-1 draw at Columbus on Oct. 7. But as with Nagamura, Vermes expects Espinoza to be available for the playoffs.

“He had two days of training, but it wasn’t enough,” Vermes said. “Now he has the rest of this weekend and into next week. He’s got a good lead-up into the game, and I think he’ll be ready to go.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.