ATLANTA — Atlanta United F.C. manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino was correct.
All-star midfielder Darlington Nagbe injured his abductor when he went down Sunday in the 56th minute of the Five Stripes’ 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers.
Martino said after the game he thought that was the case but wasn’t completely sure. After additional testing, the club confirmed Martino’s instincts Tuesday, announcing Nagbe will miss “two to three months” with a “right abductor injury.”
Atlanta United officials did not elaborate further.
This is the second time this season an Atlanta player suffered a months-long injury. In May, Greg Garza reinjured his shoulder and elected to have surgery on it. He is expected to miss four to six months.
Nagbe, 27, came to Atlanta during the offseason via trade with Portland, where he spent his entire career to that point. In exchange for Nagbe, Atlanta United gave Portland $1.65 million in allocation money. With a salary of $620,000, he is the Five Stripes’ seventh highest-paid player.
He has no goals and three assists on the season, but has been vital to the Five Stripes’ success as a box-to-box midfielder, someone who can connect the defense and the attack.
Before his injury Sunday, he was leading Atlanta in minutes played with 1,465. Monday, he was voted into the Fan XI for the 2018 MLS All-Star Game, which would be this All-Star appearance. A native of Liberia, Nagbe has 25 caps for the United States men’s national team.
“(Nagbe has) been very important for us this season,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said Sunday. “He does a lot of things that probably go unnoticed, especially with some of the bigger names on the team getting the headlines. He doesn’t have a ton of stats, but he does a lot of work with Jeff (Larentowicz) in the middle. He’s just such a good two-way player, really connects the team defensively to offensively.”
Who replaces Nagbe in the lineup remains a big question, but Martino offered a few suggestions Sunday, saying Kevin Kratz could replace him or Julian Gressel could slide over to the central midfield and Villalba could start on the right wing. If Villalba is fit, the latter choice would give the Five Stripes more firepower as the 23-year-old Argentine tallied 13 goals and 11 assists last season.
The third option is Atlanta signing a replacement when the summer transfer window opens July 10.