Darlington Nagbe has impressed in his first two U.S. Men’s National Team appearances, but don’t expect his coaches and teammates to pencil him in as a savior quite yet.
The Portland Timbers midfielder entered in the 68th minute for the USMNT, providing a bit of creativity and composure that the team was sorely lacking in the middle of the field. Although it didn’t prove to be enough to create a goal, Nagbe’s performance left Jurgen Klinsmann impressed with what he has seen to this point.
“I think Darlington, as you saw in both games now, we found a player that knows how to play, knows how to take care of the ball,” Klinsmann said. “He’s very comfortable in either direction on the ball and it’s nice to see that he has a bit more flow in the game because he simply connects the passes and that gave it even more life. Next time, we have to score the goal and get three points.”
“I thought he was great. Coming in today, he created some things,” added Geoff Cameron. “You could see he’s tidy and neat on the ball and when he came in, he changed the game for us a bit. He created a few more opportunities for us and he has a bright future ahead of him with the U.S. Men’s National Team, for sure.”
Klinsmann says that Nagbe’s future role with the team is to be determined. Admitting that he sees him as a central player much like Timbers coach Caleb Porter, Klinsmann said that Nagbe is plenty comfortable on the wings and could make an impact there should the U.S. need him out wide.
No matter where he plays, Nagbe has the looks of a valuable contributor going forward, but goalkeeper Tim Howard stressed the importance of keeping expectations level as Nagbe’s young international career continues.
“I hate to overhype him,” Howard said. “I just think America doesn’t produce a lot of those shifty players who get their foot on the ball and make people miss. It’s not always spectacular. It’s just a little shift here or there to unbalance a defense.
“I like him. I like him a lot. I think he’s got a lot of potential and he seems like a good kid.”
Here are some more news and notes from the USMNT’s draw with Trinidad & Tobago:
JONES, BRADLEY BATTLE THROUGH STRUGGLES
The midfield pairing of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones has never quite emerged as a fluid partnership, and that was apparent for parts of Tuesday’s draw. Partnered in central midfield, the two box-to-box players struggled with timing and spacing early, leading to a series of sloppy giveaways and lackluster possessions.
“They took a little bit to find their balance in midfield with Michael and Jermaine,” Klinsmann said, “especially going forward because they were too often next to each other instead of actually staggering, so we corrected that after about 25 minutes. I told Michael to go higher up so we could find better outlets there.
“In the middle, especially in the first 20 minutes, we had some issues,” Klinsmann added. “They got better, much better. With Jermaine, it was crucial that he goes through that game all 90 minutes. He had this little injury that he brought in, but he stood in and carried us through all 90 minutes. Kyle was warming up there the whole second half, but we didn’t need to bring him in there as a No. 6. Michael had his ups and downs. He lost some balls, but he’s also the one that makes a surprise move, a surprise pass and suddenly you get a goal going forward.”
While that goal never came, the U.S. as overall content with the performance put in by the midfield unit, especially by Jones.
Carrying that injury, Jones put in Man of the Match performance, locking things down on the defensive end and preventing T&T from ever really creating outside of the opening few moments of the game.
“I thought he did a great job,” Howard said of Jones. “Obviously him and Michael, there’s always that balance and depending on the opponent and what the game looks like, one has to hold and one can go forward. I thought Jermaine did a great job tonight. It was kind of a tactic. He’s so good in the air.
“We really didn’t want to break our back four. Let him compete with the big fella (Kenwyne Jones) and I thought he did great. Yesterday in training, he was outstanding in the air so we kind of knew he was up for it. He even played on when he had no legs. He made that run to cover. He was fantastic.”
OROZCO IMPRESSES AT RIGHT BACK
He may not have the speed of DeAndre Yedlin or the attacking flair of Fabian Johnson, but Michael Orozco performed just fine at right back Tuesday night.
Penciled in as a more defensive option, Orozco proved sturdy throughout his shift Tuesday night. Never much of an attacking threat, Orozco was included to play lockdown defense against T&T’s tricky wing options, a role he executed to perfection.
“Michael had a strong game as a right back,” Klinsmann said. “Very solid and very focused. No mistakes at all. At the end, he could even go forward a little bit, which was not his job. We told him to make sure he keeps his side under control.”
Orozco also received praise from those that played alongside him, as both Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron stated that players like Orozco are ones that can make all the difference throughout the adventure that is World Cup qualifying.
“He’s Steady Eddie,” Cameron said. “He’s smooth on the ball. He’s confident. He gets stuck in. You look at a guy, he’s not that physical, but he’s strong and mentally tough. He’s smart. He can play out of the back and he’s composed on the ball, and you kind of want that as a right back. He can possess the ball in the back and kind of create things. He can get forward as well. I thought it was a great game for him.”
“I like Mikey. Mikey’s great because every team needs a Michael Orozco,” Howard added. “He’s a guy who buys into the concept of the team, he’s quiet, he doesn’t ruffle any feathers, he’s always there training. You put him in a game like tonight and he’s never out of his depth. He plays in Mexico so he knows what it’s like to play in hostile environments and just fits in really well, so it’s really great for our team.”
What did you think of Nagbe’s performances? What do you see as the USMNT’s best midfield pairing? H0w do you see Orozco fitting in going forward?
Share your thoughts below.