BEAVERTON, Ore. – Darlington Nagbe's long wait is over.
The Portland Timbers attacker recently obtained his US citizenship after taking his naturalization test and going through a swearing-in ceremony on the same day.
In addition to marking a major life milestone, US citizenship also means Nagbe is eligible to play for the US national team, and after Timbers owner Merritt Paulson tweeted out the news that evening, Nagbe met with media at the team facility earlier this week to discuss the occasion.
“It just feels good to be a citizen after all these years,” Nagbe said. “I’m excited about it; my family is excited about it.”
Nagbe said it was a private ceremony, attended only by his wife and young daughter. He did not miss a question on the naturalization test and celebrated with lunch and a call to his mother afterward.
“It was fun,” Nagbe said. “… [My mom] was the most excited about it, I think.”
Nagbe was born in Liberia but left when he was an infant and his mother fled the country, later settling in the Cleveland area. Scouted by now Timbers head coach Caleb Porter when he was the coach at the University of Akron, Nagbe was drafted second overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, the year the Timbers joined MLS. He has 20 goals and 18 assists in his 154 MLS appearances over five seasons.
“It’s big for a lot of reasons,” Porter said. “I’ve known him for a long time, and I think it’s a big moment for not only his soccer career, but for his life and his family. So I’m really happy on all levels for him. It gives him the chance to go into the national team, which opens up new doors, new opportunities, new challenges for him and his soccer career.”
Nagbe’s national team prospects are still an unknown.
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He said again this week that he has yet to have any contact with anyone at U.S. Soccer but would relish the chance to represent his country. While his scoring statistics may not be eye-popping, Nagbe’s athleticism and talent on the ball are among the best in MLS and he'll get another opportunity to showcase them on national TV on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls (5 pm ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
After the Oct. 10 CONCACAF Cup clash between the US and Mexico, the next opportunity for a call-up would be a friendly against Costa Rica on Oct. 13 or two World Cup qualifiers in November; a more likely scenario for a new MLS player breaking into the national team is the annual January training camp.
“For me, I’m just going to come out here and do what I do every single game, and hopefully it’s good enough,” Nagbe said. “For me, I’m just going to focus on the Timbers right now. … [The USMNT] have a lot of great players who play here and overseas, so hopefully they want me. It’d be a great opportunity to go there and play with top players; it’d be fun.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.