Portland's Darlington Nagbe came into MLS with a bigger reputation as a creator than a goal-scorer. But the lasting image from the Liberian's rookie campaign turned out to be a juggling wonder-strike for the ages, good enough to claim the title of the 2011 AT&T Goal of the Year.
Nagbe scored the golazo in the 45th minute of what was eventually a 2-1 home loss to Sporting KC in Week 16.
|Player||% of fan vote|
|Darlington Nagbe (POR)||42|
|Eric Hassli (VAN)||31|
|Fredy Montero (SEA)||23|
|Davide Chiumiento (VAN)||4|
The goal came after Nagbe, stationed at the top of the penalty area, controlled a punched clearance from KC 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen with two juggles, then laced a laser-beam to the upper 90 as he was closed down by the Sporting defense. Between Jack Jewsbury's free kick, Nielsen's punch and — eventually — Nagbe's shot, the ball never touched the turf.
In all, the goal garnered 42 percent of the vote via text-message and online ballot, comfortably out-distancing Vancouver forward Eric Hassli's Week 13 golazo from an impossible angle against Seattle (31 percent). Fredy Montero's fancy footwork in Week 28 against the 'Caps took third place (23 percent), while Davide Chiumiento's spinning volley in Week 26 against New York came in a distant fourth (4 percent).
Nagbe is just the second rookie to win the AT&T Goal of the Year, following in the footsteps of Chicago's Damani Ralph. Ralph received the award in 2003 for a spinning touch and volley against the Columbus Crew.
All-time MLS Goal of the Year Winners
2011: Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers vs. Sporting KC – July 2, 2011
2010: Marco Pappa – Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes – April 10, 2010
2009: Landon Donovan – LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution – August 8, 2009
2008: Will Johnson – Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas – October 18, 2008
2007: Cuauhtémoc Blanco – Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake – August 18, 2007
2006: Brian Ching – Houston Dynamo vs. D.C. United – September 30, 2006
2005: Dwayne De Rosario – San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy – October 15, 2005
2004: Dwayne De Rosario – San Jose Earthquakes vs. D.C. United – August 2, 2004
2003: Damani Ralph – Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew – August 13, 2003
2002: Carlos Ruiz – LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew – July 27, 2002
2001: Clint Mathis – MetroStars vs. Dallas Burn – April 28, 2001
2000: Marcelo Balboa – Colorado Rapids at Columbus Crew – April 22, 2000
1999: Marco Etcheverry – D.C. United at Miami Fusion – May 22, 1999
1998: Brian McBride – Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire – July 9, 1998
1997: Marco Etcheverry – D.C. United vs. New England Revolution – August 27, 1997
1996: Eric Wynalda – San Jose Earthquakes vs. D.C. United – April 6, 1996