Darlington Nagbe will not be with the U.S. Men’s National Team in September, and he has reportedly confirmed that his absence was his decision.
A day after a report from the Athletic stated he turned down a call-up for next month’s friendlies and hours after he was omitted from the official USMNT roster, Nagbe confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday night that he declined an invite to camp. The central midfielder said that one of the reasons for his absence was a desire to be with his family.
Another reason Nagbe reportedly gave for passing on recent call-ups, including for the Concacaf Gold Cup, was the fact they came on late notice.
This is not the first time the 29-year-old Nagbe has reportedly rejected a call-up. He reportedly did the same thing on at least one occasion in 2017, which was rumored to be in part because Nagbe wanted to be with his family and also because of a lack of playing time under then-USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
When asked about the initial report revealing Nagbe’s rejected call-ups earlier on Wednesday, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter avoided confirming the rejection, choosing instead to praise the Atlanta United midfielder.
“First of all, I have a lot of respect for Darlington as a player. He’s a player that I have admired for a while. I’ve watched him play for years and I think he’s an excellent player,” said Berhalter. “Regarding the conversations that I’ve had with him, I’m going to keep the content of those conversations private, like I always do. I don’t feel it’s right to share personal conversations in the media.”
When asked if rejecting call-ups would lead to a player being discarded and kept off the team in the future, Berhalter said no. What’s more, he made it clear that repeatedly turning down calls would not necessarily spell the end of a player’s USMNT career.
“I’m not the type of guy that says to any player, ‘Listen, you’re done. You’re out of our program. We’re closing the door on you’,” said Berhalter during the conference call. “That’s, again, not directed at Darlington. It’s just in general. I feel like we are in the business of communication and continuing to talk to players.
“Every player has their own set of circumstances and we are very cognizant of that and we take every case on an individual basis.”
As forgiving as he may have sounded with that statement, Berhalter also stated that he needs to be able to count on players that are fully invested in the team. The USMNT is trying to reach the World Cup after failing to do so last cycle, and Berhalter wants all his players to be bought into the plans.
“I think if we just isolate the question and talk about do we want players that are committed, taking Darlington out of this, I would say everything we’re doing is about commitment from the players,” said Berhalter. “We ask them for a lot of sacrifice and we ask them to go above and beyond. If we want to reach our goals as a team, we’re going to need players that are committed to our cause and our vision.”