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How Could The U.S Men’s National Team Benefit From Portland Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe?

Friday, September 11, 2015

 

How fortunate were the Portland Timbers when they acquired midfielder Darlington Nagbe second overall in the 2011 MLS Superdraft? Ever since his procurement, the pacey player has been impressing spectators with his distinctive style of play. Originally from Liberia, Nagbe attended the University of Akron and may soon apply his trade on a national level. It has been reported that the Timbers midfielder is nearing eligibility for the U.S Men’s National Team. 

Pending his American citizenship, Nagbe will be added to the national pool from which the USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann can pull from. Many have been speculating about what a unique player such as Nagbe can add to an already profound U.S men’s national team. With the likes of midfielders Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud to name a few, where would a player like Nagbe fit in?

Let’s take a look at his stats over the past few seasons. Over Nagbe’s four-year stint with the Timbers, he is the most fouled player in the MLS. Last season he suffered 93 fouls, which was the league’s best, and this year he boasts 67 with the regular season coming to a conclusion. So far this season, Nagbe hasn’t provided many goals for the Timbers, recording only two goals in over 2,216 minutes of play. He is most dangerous when it comes to creating chances. Moreover, any fan of Nagbe or the Timbers knows that goal-scoring is not his obligation or strongpoint.  

What Nagbe does best is what the USMNT lacks to a certain extent; a player who can penetrate defenses and create chances for teammates. Also, though Nagbe is not known for consistently scoring goals, his goal-scoring potential has been demonstrated a many of times for the Timbers in games that matters most. His most recent was in the 4-1 win against the Seattle Sounders with a rocket of a shot from outside the penalty area. Nagbe’s significance in the Timbers midfield cannot be overstated, for he is the most deceptive and creative midfielder I’ve seen in the MLS thus far.  

In the recent Gold Cup, which saw the U.S failing to reach the finals, after a 2-1 upset in the semis from the Reggae Boyz (since I’m Jamaican, I’ll be professional and try not to rub it in), the USMNT attack has not been very convincing. In that game, Michael Bradley looked like the only player who wanted to win. He took the ball and tried to create chances, thus scoring the only goal of the game for the U.S. They lacked a creative player who can hold the ball, dribble at defenses and pick them apart carefully and cleverly—this is where Nagbe could step in.   

Where I could see Nagbe fitting into the U.S line-up is in the middle of the park next to Beckerman and Bradley, with the two sitting deep and Nagbe in a more attacking role. On the wings, Nagbe is less effective because he is the type of player who likes to have the ball at his feet. Traditionally, wingers have been known for having great speeds, so that they can pose problems for the opposing team on the flanks. He has the pace, but a player of Nagbe’s caliber would be wasted out wide, as he will not be involved as much during play. In the middle of the field is a different story. He would have the freedom to distribute and link up with forwards Clint Dempsey, Aron Johannsson and/or Jozy Altidore. Just the thought of this line-up gave me the chills. Would I be “pushing it” to compare this trio to the golden triangle of Barcelona with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Junior? I mean, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, right?

Nagbe’s deceptiveness, work rate, vision and skill all factor into his recipe for danger. His awe-inspiring foot-works reminds me of the great Messi -- rarely do they lose the ball off the dribble. Many, including myself, believe that Nagbe has plenty to bring to the table for the USMNT. As for the Timbers Army, it will ache us to see Nagbe leave for international duties. However, we would be proud to see him playing in with higher ranks, especially in the 2018 World Cup. First he will have to earn it his spot, but the Army would agree that having Nagbe in the World Cup is having Portland represented on the biggest stage of soccer.  

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here

 

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