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In first camp since USMNT World Cup failure, Nagbe looks to integrate himself with future stars


The last time we saw Darlington Nagbe in a U.S. Men’s National Team jersey, panic had already set in. It was the 84th minute of the USMNT’s now infamous loss in Trinidad & Tobago and Nagbe was taken off in favor of Benny Feilhaber. It was a last-gasp substitution from a team that had realized that the possibility of missing a World Cup was very, very real.

Now, several months later, there is no World Cup and the USMNT is in the midst of a period of rebuild. For the first time since leaving the field against T&T, Nagbe is back in the fold and, at just 27 years old, he most certainly may have a part to play in the USMNT’s push for a World Cup return in 2022.

Nagbe is one of few veterans involved in the USMNT’s current camp leading up to Tuesday’s clash with Paraguay. The Atlanta United midfielder is one of four players in camp that took part in the USMNT’s final World Cup qualifier, one the group is still reeling from several months later.

“It feels good to be back,” Nagbe said. “I feel a little old with all of these young guys here, but everyone is excited to be back. I’m looking forward to the game and the opportunity.

“I would say (it’s a step). You just want to come back in and get acclimated with the guys and the group and look forward to the future. They’ve done a good job so far with integrating the group and getting some younger guys with some of the guys that have been here in the past.”

Alongside fellow veterans like Eric Lichaj, DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood, Nagbe takes on a new role heading into this camp. The midfielder is tasked with helping to acclimate some new faces to the mix, players like Timothy Weah, whose father George was one of the world’s best while playing for Nagbe’s country of birth, Liberia.

Still, Nagbe isn’t around as just a mentor. He has a very real role with this current group. The 23-man squad lacks many true playmakers and difference-makers. He is one of a handful that have the ability to create for himself as well as others, making him a valuable asset to the group.

The team has a number of defensive midfielders, players like Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan and Marky Delgado. It also has some box-to-box guys like Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie. However, there is no true No. 10 on the squad, leaving playmaking duties to players like Nagbe.

It remains to be seen if he will be played centrally or out wide, but his role with the group will be an important one heading into the upcoming friendly.

“It’s definitely been different,” he said. “I’ve always been the new guy so, now that I’m one of the older guys here, it’s just getting to know the guys, how they play and making sure everyone is feeling comfortable. That’s the biggest thing when you’re new: making sure you’re comfortable so you can play your best.”

Nagbe says his club move to Atlanta has been a positive one and that he’s feeling confident heading into the USMNT’s upcoming friendly. The move from Portland was a difficult one, but putting the past behind him is allowing him to develop as a new player.

Like many, Nagbe is also looking to put the USMNT’s past on the back burner as he looks ahead towards what is hopefully a brighter future.

“I want to make sure that the guys are all sharp,” Nagbe said. “Myself, the younger guys and some of the guys that have been here in the past, I just want to put in a good week of work leading into the game and put in a good performance to build on.”


  1. There is plenty of time for Nagbe to claim a spot or not. It is usually pretty obvious, at least in training sessions, which players fit in to the team and which don’t. When the team faces opponents, we will learn which players who showed the coaches something in training have the speed of thought to play at the international level and excel.

  2. Was a little disappointed when I read Nagbe was called in. I don’t have anything against him as a player, but I don’t see him hanging around the team much longer. At this stage, new cycle & only friendlies to play, I would have preferred to have seen Parks or Scott get called up. We need to see who’s capable of stepping forward and making a claim for future call-ups when the games start to matter again.

    The only hold overs (regulars/starters) from last cycle that should be getting a call-up at this point are: Brooks, Yedlin, Pulisic, Acosta, Wood, and possibly ArJo.

    The rest of the squads should be made of players Under 24. We can bring back some players If/When games start to matter again, but only if the young guys aren’t performing.

  3. Nagbe is a one dimensional player that should not be a regular starter for the NATS going forward. He is a slightly above average MLS attacking player and at this point he has reached his ceiling. He has some great dribbling ability and a good touch, but he often over dribbles into a crowd of defenders and either draws a foul (good at times but often kills the flow of the offense) or loses the ball. I don’t seem him being an effective partner with Pulisic to lead the offensive attack and create chances for others. At times, in the right situation he could help the NATs, but let’s not expect too much.

    • My hope is that his time with Atlanta United teaches him to get the ball off his foot faster. I kind of think Nagbe might have been hampered in the past by stodgy systems and teammates who weren’t as technical as he was but with ATL he’s gotta connect in intelligent patterns and that’s going to help him.

      He still needs a left foot, but that’s a different issue.

      • Valeri, Blanco, Asprilla, and Chara all South Americans with quite a bit of skill and Adi who is maybe more athletic than technical, but I think your hope is pretty hopeless.

    • There have been plenty of one dimensional players that have come through the USMNT and in world football, period! Landon and Dempsey were thought to be one dimensional by many, Arjen Robben was another, so this idea that he shouldn’t be called in any longer because you think so is silly and stupid at the same time. Nagbe is a 27 year old middle with a ton of ability, who plays a position of need in the pool, and being apart of a failed trip to Russia won’t and shouldn’t cripple further call ups. I understand the need to get younger, and I happen to agree with it, but us soccer can’t afford to overlook players like Nagbe if we want to be taken seriously and not seen as petty and incompetent

      • He was hardly “overlooked.” Nagbe got a fair shot, mind you under two different coaches. He simply isn’t that good internationally. His negatives outweigh his positives. It’s time to purge the team of dead weight and get younger. He’s going to be 31 in 2022 and to date has shown zero leadership qualities. There is no point in him taking up a roster spot.

      • Landon, Dempsey, and Robben’s one dimension was scoring goals in bunches that’s kind of a big difference. (I didn’t have a problem with him being called in though.)

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