Sunday, November 22, 2015

Darlington Nagbe's MNT debut

Our Portland Timber attacking dynamo, Darlington Nagbe,  was called up to the US Men's National Team for a qualifying match against St. Vincent & the Grenadines.   Nagbe was called to play in the 64th minute along with another player.   review of the game's flow showed that he acquitted himself well, passing accurately,  moving off the ball to create opportunities and occasionally turning to the attack, at one point cracking off a strong shot.  

Notable to me was that Nagbe's workmanlike performance on the field in that short period of time involved precise passing,  intuitive movement off the ball,  and a defensive effort to break down counter attacks when the opponent picked up the ball.  I thought that Nagbe was stellar at showing he could play that role throughout his twenty-some minutes of play.   He made few mistakes and showed a clear understanding of the USMNT system despite its differences from his play with the Portland Timbers.

Nagbe is one of the most talented players over the ball in the MLS...and maybe elsewhere.  The typical response from opponents is to take him down and draw a soft foul.  This may be one of the weak points of the game---that a low consequence foul, say pushing the player to the ground,  doesn't cost the offending team much but nullifies the talent and skill of the player fouled.   I hope this isn't the direction the game is headed.

Nagbe deserves the call up.  He's a quality attacking player.  He's effective if he's used in a system that understands his strengths.  He will be a legendary player if he can be protected from the cynical fouls that are so common in MLS.

My hope is that he remains healthy and that he stays with Portland.   I think he's one of the best players I've seen---just needs some help against the thugs.

Portland Timbers first MLS playoff match: eliminating SKC in PKs.

Anyone who follows futbol passionately treasures their short list of legendary matches, generally matches attended in person.  And the game provides a limitless list of competitive moments, in small or large venues, where the passion was intense, the stakes were high, and the goddess, Fortune, put her hand on the scale more than once to tip the outcome. 

The first playoff match for the MLS Portland Timbers kicked contending matches aside as the team battled through 120 minutes of field play and eleven rounds of penalty kicks to finally take the win when keeper, Adam Kwarasey ,stopped opposing keeper, Jon Kempin, with a  great save after making his own statement by bending the net with a strong shot.