LOS ANGELES — For Darlington Nagbe, the move to the Columbus Crew this season comes after four years of angling to return to his home state.
Nagbe’s focus began turning back to home after he won the MLS Cup with Portland in 2015. His wife was also born and raised in Cleveland, and their family spent every offseason in Cleveland. Each year, the pull back home became stronger.
“It’s become more important to me to be home,” Nagbe said.
The return to Columbus also is a reunion for Nagbe and Caleb Porter, who coached Nagbe in Portland and in college at the University of Akron.
After envisioning a return to Columbus for years, Nagbe said Porter’s move to the Crew sealed his decision to return to Ohio.
He described the pairing as opposites attracting — Porter is high-energy where Nagbe is relaxed, and that dynamic pushes him in the right directions. But the most important aspect of their dynamic is a respect built during years of working together.
“I’m the type of person who always wants to do well for people I care about,” Nagbe said. “He’s someone that I care about in our professional relationship, so I think that makes me want to do more for him.”
The move to Columbus marks another change in pace for Nagbe as he moves away from his international career.
After spending three years as a regular member of the U.S. men’s national team, Nagbe hasn’t earned a call-up since 2018. But Nagbe is content to focus on his club. Even after Gregg Berhalter took over the team, Nagbe didn’t talk to the new coach about attempting a comeback on the national team. In fact, he said, he hasn’t even thought about it.
For Nagbe, priorities have shifted as he enters the 10th year of his MLS career.
“I miss the games especially,” Nagbe said. “When you get to play the games with the red, white and blue on, it’s special. I miss the game days themselves, but there’s not much besides that. I’m enjoying that I get to spend time with my family.”