Darlington Nagbe’s move to Atlanta United from Portland Timbers has captured the headlines around the country. There’s no question it will be one of the biggest trades of the winter, especially considering Nagbe had spent his entire pro career in Portland.
So why now to make the move?
“I was in Portland seven years, had a great time there, did some good things there,” Nagbe said in a conference call. “I was just looking for a change and obviously Atlanta’s a great organization with a great team moving in the right direction. That’s why my family and I thought it was the best decision, not just for off-the-field, but for on-the-field as well.”
Nagbe did not play in Portland and Atlanta’s 1-1 draw on May 14th due to a hamstring injury, but his knowledge and awareness of the Five Stripes’ qualities is clear.
“Obviously as a player you want to be on the ball," Nagbe said. "You want to be in the attack and have possession of the ball and control the game. Atlanta did a great job with that last year, so as a player you want to be a part of something like that and hopefully I can add to that.
“I’ve seen a team that’s organized, a team that plays together, loves to attack and keep possession of the ball and be in control of the game. So that’s all the things that you’re looking forward to as a player. You want to be a part of that.”
Another important factor to consider in Nagbe’s move is the departure of Caleb Porter as Portland's coach.
Did that affect Nagbe’s willingness to make the change?
“Yeah, I would say so," Nagbe said. "Obviously he’s a great coach as well, so when someone like that decides to leave and someone I’ve had a relationship with since college, definitely it affected my decision. But obviously we had a great relationship and we did some good things together. But now I’m with another great coach and great organization, and hopefully we can do some good things here as well.”
The 27-year-old Liberia-born midfielder has earned 24 caps since his debut for the US national team on Nov. 13, 2015. He believes his Atlanta move will be a positive for his international future as well.
"You want to be a part of a winning team," Nagbe said. "If you’re on the winning team and you’re playing well, then you’re doing something right. Hopefully in the coming year we can do some good things on the field and off the field and hopefully that helps my case in the national team and with the new coach that comes in.”