PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers rookie Darlington Nagbe was all smiles when he woke up Wednesday to discover his wondrous, juggling golazo on July 2 against Sporting Kansas City was voted 2011 AT&T Goal of the Year.
“It’s unbelievable, especially since it’s my first season,” Nagbe said after a morning workout at JELD-WEN Field. “I never thought I’d win goal of the year in my first season. It feels pretty good.”
The Liberian’s goal collected 42 percent of the vote via text message and online balloting, beating out Vancouver forward Eric Hassli’s week 13 goal against Seattle. Seattle’s Fredy Montero took third place for his fancy footwork goal in week 28 against the Whitecaps, while Vancouver’s Davide Chiumiento took fourth.
Nagbe becomes just the second rookie to win the award, following Chicago’s Damani Ralph in 2003.
“This is, by far, my best goal I’ve scored at any level,” Nagbe said of the tally, which also happened to be his first in MLS.
The once-in-a-lifetime strike took place after Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched clear a Jack Jewsbury free kick, which came to Nagbe at the top of the penalty area. Nagbe controlled it with two juggles before unleashing a bullet to the upper 90 with the Sporting defense closing in. From the start of the Jewsbury free kick, the ball never touched the turf.
Nagbe said his phone was immediately inundated following the game, which eventually turned into a 2-1 Timbers loss. He said he heard from former teammates, coaches, friends and family. The most rewarding, perhaps, was the high praise that came from his father, Joe, a former professional and member of the Liberian national team.
“He was excited,” Nagbe said. “He said it was one of the best goal he’s ever seen in his life from any player at any level. That was pretty unbelievable.”
|Player||% of fan vote|
|Darlington Nagbe (POR)||42|
|Eric Hassli (VAN)||31|
|Fredy Montero (SEA)||23|
|Davide Chiumiento (VAN)||4|
Nagbe said one of his favorite aspects of looking back on the play is listening to Timbers broadcaster John Strong’s, well, elevated reaction.
“I thought that was pretty funny,” Nagbe said.
He has yet to try to recreate the wonder-strike in training or even messing around on the pitch but said he hears from kids from all over who keep trying, unsuccessfully, at an imitation.
“I think if I tried, I couldn’t top it,” Nagbe said.
From start to finish, Nagbe’s first year in MLS was one to remember. From becoming the second overall selection in the SuperDraft after winning a national title at the University of Akron, winning Goal of the Year with his first career tally to even getting engaged to his girlfriend, Felicia Houtz, during the season, there wasn’t much Nagbe didn’t accomplish. But the humble Nagbe said there was still more on his list left undone, namely the MLS Cup playoffs.
“I looked back and think ‘Wow what a year,’” he said. “But I also think I could have done more as a player and helped the team more and got more goals and more assists. Those last few games also hurt because I couldn’t help my team get into the playoffs.”
WATCH: Nagbe's wonder-goal
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com