With the MLS Player Combine in the books, the waiting game begins for some of North America’s top young prospects.
And that’s something that Darlington Nagbe of the Portland Timbers has intimate knowledge of, just a year removed from becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft.
Nagbe said those players awaiting Thursday’s SuperDraft likely have a fury of emotions and scenarios running through their minds.
“That’s the biggest thing, is thinking about where you’re going to go and then try to adjust and think about living there,” said Nagbe from his family’s home in Ohio as he prepares for the opening of Timbers training camp on Jan. 23. “You try to guess the team that is going to pick you. It’s just a lot of thinking, pretty much.”
Nagbe was one of the country’s top prospects last year after leading Akron to the NCAA Championship. And he was a perfect example of the impact the draft can have. During his first season in Portland, Nagbe was considered one of the league’s top young players after scoring two goals, including MLS’ Goal of the Year.
“There were a little [bit of] nerves because you don’t know where you’re going,” Nagbe said. “But the other part of it was excitement because your dreams are coming true. So it’s a little bit of both.”
Of course, for Nagbe, things worked out perfectly.
“I really wanted to go to Portland because of their fan base,” he explained. “And I saw a little bit about the Timbers Army and how passionate the fans and the city are.”
His former teammate at Akron, forward Darron Mattocks, is projected to be a top selection in Thursday’s draft. Nagbe said he’s drawn on his experiences throughout the process and as a first-year player to offer Mattocks advice.
“I’ve just told him to be patient and be confident with yourself and you’ll make your mark in the league,” Nagbe said.
Nagbe said he came into his first Timbers training session wanting to make an impact on the field, but also noted that fitting in with new teammates was an important aspect of being a rookie.
“Some of the guys knew each other, so that made it easier,” he said. “But I was just trying to be a nice guy and talk to everyone and join in whenever the guys invite me to.”
Dan Itel covers the Portland Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org