Paulo Nagamura's sprained left ankle is worse than Sporting Kansas City first thought and could keep the scrappy midfielder out of the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
After Nagamura was hurt in the first half of Sporting's regular-season finale, last Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Philadelphia, manager Peter Vermes said his removal from the game was precautionary and that he expected Nagamura to be ready for Saturday's match on the road against the winner of Houston-Chicago in the Knockout Round.
Medical tests later in the week pushed the time table back for the 29-year-old Brazilian.
“It's a serious ankle sprain,” Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Sunday. “I'm very doubtful for our first game. Very doubtful. So it's really going to be when he gets better and when he can play through.”
Nagamura, who is in his first season with Sporting, struggled with a calf injury early in the year but has turned in a solid comeback campaign since then. He has 19 starts in 27 appearances, with one goal and one assist, and also scored the decisive penalty – on a retake – in Sporting's shootout win over Seattle in the US Open Cup final.
Along the way, he has also won over the fans with his hard-nosed, box-to-box play and his toughness on the pitch.
Nagamura is the second starting midfielder to go down with an ankle sprain this month. Roger Espinoza missed the last two matches of the regular season with a sprained right ankle but is expected to return for the playoff opener.
Now, Sporting have to wait and see how quickly Nagamura can return as well.
“He and the trainers are working on it every day, a couple of times a day, but where it shakes out, I can't tell you right now,” Vermes said. “It's just one of those things where we'll just have to see, as he gets better, what he can tolerate.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.