It would only stand to reason that Darlington Nagbe’s ninth goal of the season, setting a Portland Timbers record for most goals in a season, would come in spectacular fashion.
After all, Nagbe burst onto the scene in 2011 with the first goal of his career, a juggling volley that was voted MLS Goal of the Year. His latest submission was a 30-yard right-footed curling blast in Portland’s 2-2 draw Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, breaking Kenny Cooper’s record of eight goals in Portland’s inaugural season.
“Nothing surprises me with Darlington because I’ve seen him do it all,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Vancouver after Sunday's match. “I just think he continues to show that he’s one of the top players in the league.”
It’s been a breakout season for the third-year pro out of the University of Akron in many ways.
Now playing under his old college coach in Porter, Nagbe not only has set career marks in goals – breaking his previous high of six set last year – but also in assists (four), shots (56) and shots on goal (23). He also made his 45th straight start for Portland, all coming during a season in which he topped MLS’ 24 Under 24 list.
“He probably doesn’t get as much credit as he should, but the reality is you earn your credit by producing goals,” Porter said. “And up until this year, he hadn’t produced enough. And this year he’s showing that he can be a player who is pretty special on the ball, in terms of his possession and touches, but also he’s a player who can score goals.
"He’s showing that he can be a final-third player, not just a possession player.”
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Nagbe’s strike wasn’t the only record set during Sunday’s game. Team captain Will Johnson’s goal, a low screamer from the top of the box, was his eighth of the year, adding to his career-high total that previously stood at three. It also gave the Timbers four players with eight or more goals this season, the only team in MLS to possess such a total.
“We’re doing it by committee,” Porter said. “We’re not a one-headed monster, we don’t have one guy who is going to score a lion’s share of goals. We have to do with it with four or five guys, and we’ve done it that way all year, which I think again says a lot about the fact that we play a team game and share the ball and share the production, and that’s really just the way we’ve put the team together.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.