CARSON, Calif. – Surviving a rookie season in MLS is no easy task. Players, often plucked right from college, are forced to adapt to the professional game in a matter of months. New cities, new teammates, and new tactics are all piled upon a rookie’s shoulders with the expectation that he will quickly adjust to the league.
It’s a difficult transition to be sure, but one that’s made much easier when you’ve got Paulo Nagamura helping you through it – an advantage that Chivas USA rookie Ben Zemanski isn’t taking for granted.
“He has been great,” Zemanski told MLSsoccer.com of his Brazilian teammate. “I’ve learned a lot just from watching him play, and I’ve learned even more because he takes the time to help me with my game. Constantly giving me tips and reminders and brushing up on things. I feel like my game is getting better just being alongside him.”
Zemanski was drafted 45th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and has become a staple of the Chivas USA lineup this season. He has formed a kind of mentor-mentee relationship with the Goats’ veteran.
“I try to pass on my experience to him,” said Nagamura. “He’s a very good player. I try to help make him a better player.”
The two have been paired in the middle of the pitch lately and have developed a strong chemistry on the field.
“I think we pass pretty well to each other and when one guy moves forward, we know to hold for each other,” Zemanski said. “I think it’s been working out well. We’re learning from each other every day.”
One skill that both players have been working on all season is shooting from outside the 18-yard box.
“At least once a week, we work on our shooting,” said Nagamura. “Especially from further out. It’s not something that’s only going to happen once in a season. We work on it every week and we have been waiting for those moments during games.”
Zemanski insists that his positioning on the field makes such a skill priceless for him and Nagamura.
“The position I play and how I play it, I feel like that’s where my opportunities will come,” he said. “Taking those longer-range shots will press the defense and force them to step out and it will maybe open up some things for our forwards. I’ve been working on it and been trying to get some shots off in games.”
With just six games left to play in the 2010 MLS season, Nagamura and Zemanski will look to continue solidifying a partnership that could prove valuable to Chivas USA in the future.
“We’ve been working hard together,” said Nagamura. “I hope he continues to develop and I’m happy to help with that.”