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Yuta Nomura is hoping growth of MLS will “open the door” for Japanese people

The Revs II goalkeeper coach discusses his career and Asian representation in MLS

New England Revolution

Soccer has given New England Revolution II goalkeeping coach Yuta Nomura so much and he wants others to experience the same.

Nomura’s love for soccer has traveled a great distance. The Revolution II goalkeeper coach was born in Japan and started playing the sport at just five years old.

“All my friends were playing soccer back in Japan so I just wanted to play the sport that everyone was playing,” Nomura told The Bent Musket.

From those humble beginnings came a career that would take Nomura from Japan all the way to the United States. After finishing high school in his native country, Nomura came to the States and played college soccer for Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

“Back in 2011 there was not a lot of Japanese student-athletes who came to the States to pursue their dream,” said Nomura. “Luckily I was one of them.”

As a freshman, Nomura went 23-0-0 and led Lindsey Wilson to an NAIA National Championship. He finished his college career with a 68-11-3 record, allowing just 69 goals in 85 total appearances (83 starts) while recording 35 clean sheets.

He went on to play professional soccer in Sweden for two-and-a-half seasons, featuring for BK Olympic of the Division 2 Västra Götaland. While being a professional player was something Nomura dreamed of, his experience in Sweden wasn’t easy.

“I’m not going to lie,” Nomura said. “It was tough. The salaries and the money that you get paid is not like MLS or the top European teams.”

In 2018, Nomura was out of contract and left with a decision to make. Did he want to continue to pursue his dream as a player or did he want to become a coach?

“I wanted to play, to be fair because I was 26 by then,” Nomura stated. “But at the same time if I’m not making big money I can’t rely on my family and parents. I just kind of wanted to step into a new perspective and share the message to the younger generation.”

Nomura traded Sweden for Arkansas, becoming a coach at the University of Central Arkansas. In Nomura’s first season at Central Arkansas, he was part of a staff that collectively won the Missouri Valley Conference Coaching Staff of the Year award.

Then in 2020, Revolution II Clint Peay “took a chance” on Nomura as the goalkeeper coach described coming to New England. With Nomura only having about a year and a half of coaching experience under his belt, he considers himself quite lucky.

Nomura said that his first year with Revolution II was “unbelievable,”

“Working with Kevin Hitchcock, who used to play for Chelsea and also coached for Manchester City, [is amazing],” Nomura said. “Just standing next to him, the learning, the studying every day, and even still after two years going now I’m still doing it. Every day I go up to him, looking at what he does.”

Nomura stated that he has received a lot of advice from Hitchcock, but one piece that stands out is not using excuses.

“If my job is to serve 10 balls to the goalkeeper, I have to produce 10 perfect services out of 10,” he said. “That’s the mentality that he has, and I know that we are not machines, it’s sometimes impossible, sometimes you make a mistake, but he always pushes you. That’s something where I’m pushing myself and also I’m pushing to those goalkeepers that I coach now. That’s the professional world and if you want to go to the next level you have to have responsibility.”

With Revolution II having some great goalkeepers, such as Joe Rice who recorded 11 shutouts between 2020 and 2021, and Jacob Jackson, who made 57 saves in 14 appearances in his first professional season, The Bent Musket asked Nomura what goalkeeper has impressed him the most.

Nomura said that Rice, who is currently with Loudon United, was one of them but right now Max Weinstein has been catching his eye.

“He’s all about learning and you can see from day one to right now, he has progressed massively and that’s something that I can tell the youth guys that if you do well, if you believe in what you do, you are going to get the chance and if you get the chance it’s up to you whether you are going to take it or not. I think so far he’s been taking it,” Nomura said.

At the time of the interview, Weinstein had appeared in two games for Revolution II (both losses) and while the result didn’t go the goalkeeper’s way, Nomura was impressed by Weinstein.

“I really like him and if he is going to be with us next year, he’s going to do us really well,” Nomura stated.

When it comes to Japanese and Asian representation, the MLS is lacking. Only nine Japanese players have appeared in the league since its inception and Yuya Kubo is the lone Japanese player currently in the league. Even when you look at the entire continent of Asia, there is still a small number of players in the league today.

Nomura stated that the goal for a lot of Japanese players right now is to go to Europe but with Major League Soccer bringing in high-quality players that may change.

“The people are starting to recognize what MLS is,” he said. “Back when I was in college, 2011, there was not a lot of Japanese soccer student-athletes but now there’s tons of Japanese student-athletes playing their sports which I think will help them hopefully come into MLS.

“I think MLS has done a great job of promoting the league and also the NCAA has done a great job of getting international students and also building the soccer program or any other sports. I think if time goes on, if we keep doing things that we have been doing, I think there is going to be so many doors that Japanese people can knock and open the door.”

So, it was a special moment when in July, members of the Japanese community came out to support Revolution II player Hikaru Fujiwara and Nomura. Over 40 Japanese fans watched Revolution II face off against NYCFC II at Gillette Stadium.

“For me as a professional coach, for [Fujiwara] as a professional player, I think it’s important for them to see the dream,” Nomura said. “Even we as Japanese came from a small island, coming to the big United States, we can show them that if you truly believe in what you do you can actually make it come true.”

Nomura said he hopes to invite members of the Japanese community back to Foxboro for more events including possibly holding a clinic.

These moments are important to Nomura as it’s his way to give back to the sport that’s given him so much. Soccer opens doors, it provides experiences, and it brings together individuals from near and far.

Nomura has learned this from first-hand experience, and he hopes that others will too. The coach views soccer as a way to connect people, and his journey to New England is a testament to the bridges that can be built by the beautiful game.