BEAVERTON, Ore. — By now, if you have an Internet connection or you watch ESPN, you’ve seen Darlington Nagbe’s goal.
The juggling, circus shot that would be tough to equal in 10 tries on an empty field is a likely shoo-in for MLS goal of the week. It has more than 1 million hits on YouTube. And ESPN has gotten full mileage of the highlight, making it the No. 1 play of the weekend and placing it in its Best of the Best poll.
Portland captain Jack Jewsbury set up the shot with a free kick (perhaps the lone Portland Timbers highlight in a 2-1 loss Saturday against Sporting Kansas City) that SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson punched out of traffic and to the edge of the penalty box.
It came right to Nagbe, who then juggled the ball twice like it was a hacky sack before firing off a missile into the far, upper corner of the net.
“It was just instinct,” Nagbe said said. “I was just trying to get a shot off and juggling it was the only way to get a shot off.”
Portland head coach John Spencer called it one of the top-three goals in MLS this year and said if it was made by one of the world’s elites, it would be seen across the globe.
“You’ll probably pay to watch lot more games in your life and you’ll probably not see a better goal,” Spencer said.
The question remains, will Nagbe’s spectacular goal finally unleash the potential that the Timbers saw when they selected him out of the University of Akron? Nagbe’s first career goal may turn out to be his best, but hopefully for Portland, he has more in the tank.
“I think he can be better,” Spencer said. “I think he has the potential to go and play among the best in the world. He has that ability, that natural ability. He has that natural ability that Landon Donovan also has, that you could take Landon today and put him in Barcelona’s training session and I guarantee you he doesn’t look out of place.
"And I think you can say that with Darlington in that aspect," Spencer said. "I think the difference with Landon is he’s more mature now. He’s very, very experienced and he’s in the peak of his career. And he plays consistently well every week.”
Nagbe said watching himself on ESPN has been a confidence booster, something Spencer has continually said his club is lacking.
“I was just waiting to get an assist or a goal, so I think my confidence is pretty good right now,” Nagbe said. “I feel like we’ve been playing well. I’ve just been unlucky not to get goals.”
Nagbe said the best reaction to his goal was talking to his mother, who cried when she saw it.
“I’ve never scored a goal like that, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.”