At the beginning of the season we asked where Darlington Nagbe belonged. Now, twelve games in to the season, the question is being raised once again.
This season the Timbers have lined up with Nagbe in three different positions: as an outside midfielder, second striker, and, most recently, attacking midfielder. Still, despite being moved all over the field, Nagbe has yet to claim any one position as his own.
Nagbe has been called the most technical player on the Timbers, the fastest player on the Timbers, and the best footballer on the Timbers. Clearly, he has the skills, but where those skills are best applied is unclear.
Weigh in on just where Nagbe should line up in our poll after the break.
Where should Darlington Nagbe play?
As An Outside Midfielder
With the Timbers core of outside players returning from their plethora of early season injuries, it will be harder and harder for Nagbe to claim a starting spot. Early on in the season, while he was getting starts up top, Nagbe was often pushed to the outside later on in games to accommodate bringing on another striker.
His record has been less than stellar while out on the wing, managing no goals and no assists this season and rarely looking dangerous while doing so. Kalif Alhassan and Eric Alexander have both managed assists from the outside, while Sal Zizzo has created chances in his limited minutes (but has largely been let down by the finishing of theTimbers' strikers including one excellent opportunity wasted by Nagbe).
As A Second Striker
After getting most of his starts this year lined up at forward, Nagbe suddenly finds himself with some stiff competition at the top with arrival of Danny Mwanga. When compared to Jorge Perlaza, Nagbe brought a very different look to the forward position. However, Mwanga's skill set and playing style at forward is very similar to Nagbe's. Both drop back to find the play and are more comfortable running at a man or shooting from distance than playing the scrappy, defense stretching style of Perlaza.
Mwanga's struggles this season are well documented. Having not yet gotten on the score sheet, Mwanga is hardly a lock to start alongside Kris Boyd. However, despite making eight appearances at center forward so far, Nagbe only has two goals while playing up top, most notably his volleyed goal of the week against Real Salt Lake. Nagbe did score another goal at forward: a fluky effort against FC Dallas that required mishit clearances by Kevin Hartman and Daniel Hernandez to put him in on goal. That had less to do with him than either of the own goals forced by Boyd this season.
As An Attacking Midfielder
The position that Nagbe has seen the least amount of time at this season, could also be the one that he is most suited for. Nagbe has only been slotted into the center of the midfield twice this year, scoring once. In his first game playing in the center, the team's 2-3 loss to Real Salt Lake back in March, Nagbe revealed just what he is capable of when given the freedom to run the attack.
Against RSL Nagbe scored the first of his two goals on the day from the center of the midfield and generally terrorized the Salt Lake defense with the space allowed him in the center of the park, something he has often struggled to find when positioned further up the pitch. However, by the 80th minute Nagbe was clearly gassed and, despite being moved to a forward position once James Marcelin was brought on, did little to contribute to the Timbers defensive efforts as RSL scored two last minute goals to win the game.
More recently, in the role again versus the Vancouver Whitecaps and Cal FC, Nagbe has been less able to stamp his authority on the game. Although the Timbers created a number of chances in both games, the final pass from Nagbe has been lacking and he has not exhibited the same magic that was promised by his run out against Salt Lake. The Timbers attack has been frustraiting fans for months now and Nagbe's recent appearances in the center of the pitch have not done anything to alleviate that feeling.
Remeber, we aren't asking what position he is best at, we are asking what position he is best at for the Timbers. Let us know in the poll and in the comments.