"He is amazing": Columbus Crew's Darlington Nagbe climbs MLS Cup history books


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Darlington Nagbe has joined a prestigious crowd.

The Columbus Crew’s captain, with Saturday’s 2-1 victory over LAFC, has now won four MLS Cups – becoming the 10th player in league history to reach that mark. He previously helped raise the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy in 2015 (Portland Timbers), 2018 (Atlanta United) and 2020 (Columbus).

Does the midfield metronome stand among the best in league history? By that metric, it’s a resounding yes. 

“Two in four years, that’s special,” Nagbe said afterwards at Field. “Not just from the group and the team, but from the organization and the direction they want to head in.”

Players with most MLS Cups

  • 6: Landon Donovan
  • 5: Jeff Agoos, Todd Dunivant, Brian Mullan
  • 4: Dwayne De Rosario, Jaime Moreno, Darlington Nagbe, Eddie Robinson, Josh Saunders, Craig Waibel

Against the defending champs, Nagbe logged a 96.3% pass completion rate (52 of 54), won seven duels, drew six fouls and was credited with two chances created. Unnerved by the occasion, he produced yet another masterclass.

“He is amazing, 32 years old,” head coach Wilfred Nancy said. “He was composed with the ball and made the right decisions. He was spot on.”

Nagbe’s midfield partner is homegrown Aidan Morris, and their close relationship was evident in both the postgame press conference and on-field celebrations. Morris, then only 19, memorably replaced Nagbe in Columbus’ midfield for their MLS Cup 2020 victory over Seattle Sounders FC after the veteran was ruled out due to COVID-19.

“Every word that comes out of this guy's mouth, it's just special to me,” Morris said. “I've been listening to this guy for three, four years now, and I'm just trying to execute what he says. This isn't his only good speech this year. Every single day he shows up and is nothing but positive and he leads us in the right direction.”

The speech Morris referenced? It occurred before kickoff and first-half goals from Cucho Hernández, the MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi, and Yaw Yeboah created a cushion to withstand Dénis Bouanga’s late consolation strike. 

In the Crew locker room, Nancy and his staff displayed photos from their players’ youth soccer days. After encouragement from the French manager, Nagbe eventually offered some wisdom.

“I just told the guys we’ve been going at it for a year now,” Nagbe said. “I was talking about everything we’ve sacrificed. 

“Guys are away from their family all season long and we’ve got an opportunity to give them a special moment. A lot of them flew in from around the world to be here with us. It was mostly about that. Telling each other how proud I am of everyone, that I need them. None of us can do this alone and we all need each other.”

Nagbe isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, either. In mid-November, the former US international signed a contract extension with his local team through 2025 with an option for 2026.

And come Tuesday’s championship parade, Nagbe will participate in a familiar scene. After 2020’s circumstances, the experience is all the more gratifying.

“The special thing about tonight is we didn’t get the chance to pack the stadium a couple of years ago,” Nagbe said. “I wasn’t part of the game, so I’m happy I got to be part of this game day. I know there were so many fans here who didn’t get the opportunity to be part of that game and to be here and support us. 

“I think tonight is just special. We packed it, the fans were incredible, the team was incredible.”