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Q&A with Atlanta United’s Darlington Nagbe

Darlington Nagbe played his first game with Atlanta United on Saturday, Feb. 10 in a preseason friendly against Nashville SC. | Photo: Mitchell Northam, ProSoccerUSA

Last Saturday marked the first time in Darlington Nagbe’s Major League Soccer career that he put on a kit other than the Portland Timbers’.

The U.S. men’s national team midfielder spent seven seasons in Portland after the team drafted him in 2011, and helped the Timbers win the 2015 MLS Cup.

But the Timbers shipped Nagbe, 27, to Atlanta United FC ahead of the 2018 season in exchange for more than $1 million in allocation money. He made his official debut in the Five Stripes’ midfield last week during a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

In a quick one-on-one interview with Pro Soccer USA, Nagbe talked about the Houston loss, compared his old coach to his new one, talked about who he uses as an on-field translator and shared what it’s like to be in a new city.

What went wrong for the team in Houston?

Nagbe: “I would just say little individual mistakes, as a group. It’s so hard to say, when you lose 4-0, to point at something specifically, but I would just say that and our energy overall.”

How do you think you I played?

Nagbe: “I thought I did alright. It’s hard to say you did well when it’s 4-0. But I thought I did alright, considering everything. But I’m looking forward to getting to the next game.”

You played in Portland for a long time. What are the similarities and differences in coaching styles between Caleb Porter and Gerardo “Tata” Martino?

Nagbe: “It’s similar. They both want the ball. They want to play up, possess, play good soccer. I would say the biggest difference is maybe the more risk that we take here, the way we play out of the back. We didn’t play out of the back as much in Portland as we do here. But with those risks we take here, they can lead to big rewards if they’re executed properly.”

You’ve played several times against these D.C. United teams coached by Ben Olsen. What can you expect consistently from his teams?

Nagbe: “I think they’re going to work hard. That’s the one thing about D.C., they’re always a hard-working team, whether they have the results are not. They always believe they can win every game. We just need to be aware of their energy and how they come out.”

Last week you told me how Andrew Carleton has kind of been picking your brain a little bit. How much have you enjoyed working with the younger players here?

Nagbe: “Yea, I love that, because I was a young player at one time and I had guys that helped me. So, being as the roles are reversed now, I’m always happy to talk to (the younger guys), whether it’s about anything, soccer, life, whatever. I’m happy that we have some really talented young players here.”

You still have years ahead of you for playing, but when that’s all over, do you think coaching is something in your future?

Nagbe: “I’m not sure. Possibly, yea. If I could work with – I don’t about professionally – but working with a younger group of guys, I think that would be cool.”

There’s a lot of Spanish-speaking guys on this team, including the coach and a lot of the guys who play up top. Do you speak Spanish at all?

Nagbe: “No, I don’t speak Spanish at all, but that’s the good about soccer. It’s just so fluid sometimes. But if I do need to say something to one of them, I’ll call over one of the guys who speaks Spanish and English and they’ll help us out.”

Who are some of those guys you can just call over to translate?

Nagbe: “Mostly Greg (Garza), because I have that relationship with him like that (from the national team). And then if he’s too far away, Josef (Martínez). His English is good as well.”

I saw on your Twitter that your wife is expecting. Congrats on that, by the way. How’s it been for you in a new city with your wife, kids and another one on the way? How are you adjusting to all of that?

Nagbe: “It’s been good. I think It’s been exciting with new baby in a new city, so you’re looking forward to those things, and with a new team as well. It’s been good. The team has done a great job in helping me relocate and getting adjusted. I have no complaints at all. We’re looking forward to getting settled.”

Notes:

  • Leandro González Pírez returned to training on Friday. In Saturday’s loss to Houston, the centerback suffered what the club called a “right hip contusion” in 39th minute and was subbed off for Michael Parkhurst. Both LGP and Brandon Vazquez (hamstring) are listed as “questionable” in the team’s media guide for Sunday’s match.
  • Jon Gallagher (ankle) and Ezequiel Barco (quad) are both out for Sunday’s game against D.C. United.
  • Mark Bloom, a Georgia native who played in two games with Atlanta United last season, announced his retirement on Tuesday in an Instagram post. Bloom grew up in Marietta – home to the Five Stripes’ training grounds – and then had a 10-year career in pro soccer, playing for sides in the PDL, USL, NASL and MLS.
  • On Wednesday, Atlanta United announced that it had rescheduled a game with Minnesota United. The game was originally set for Sunday, April 1. It has now been pushed up a day to Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium.
  • It seems like Yamil Asad is unlikely to perform a flamboyant celebration on Sunday if the D.C. United midfielder were to score against his former team. Speaking to Ian Quillen of MLSsoccer.com, Asad said, “I have great respect for the fans and the people of Atlanta. I don’t see why I would celebrate a goal there if I was to score.”

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