The United States Mens' National Team flamed out of the CONCACAF Gold Cup earlier this week in dramatic fashion, losing 2-1 to Jamaica and seemingly underestimating the Reggae Boyz at every turn. While there are plenty of issues to address in the performance, there is one player that will soon be available for selection by Jurgen Klinsmann who could solve a number of them: the Portland Timbers' own Darlignton Nagbe.
This September, Nagbe, who just turned 25 last week, will be available for selection for the USMNT for the first time and he is definitely worth a look for the side.
The United States have been a team with little rhythm over the last year. The USMNT have looked good in historic wins over Germany and Holland, but have seemed to lose focus in matches against less storied opposition, culminating in their recent Gold Cup loss to Jamaica. Now, with the US set to play in today's third place Gold Cup match, Klinsmann should be examining just what is needed going forward.
Much of the blame for the loss to Jamaica has been put on the shoulders of holding midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley. With Beckerman sitting back and Bradley filling a box to box role, the pair looked off kilter as they repeatedly turned over the ball or gave up fouls in poor positions. While neither covered themselves in glory, the lack of a true linking player between the attack and defense beyond Bradley kept the team from effectively transitioning into the attack or holding the ball when they did get forward.
It is in this role, as the shuttle between the defense and the attack, that Nagbe excels and, in doing so, allows the players around him time to get into the spaces that are needed to be effective going forward.
How Nagbe would fit into the current USMNT setup is still a question that would need to be answered. The US has several fullbacks capable of getting forward with aplomb and, if Nagbe were lined up on the wing for the US and allowed to tuck in, he could certainly clear space for them in much the same way he does for Alvas Powell or Jorge Villafana with the Timbers. (Sacrilege: Nagbe in front of DeAndre Yedlin could be a scary attacking combination.) Alternatively, Nagbe could step into the center of the pitch ahead of Bradely and give the US Captain a surefire outlet and a player naturally inclined to play the quick 1-2 passes with which he thrives.
While Timbers fans are always loath to lose a player for any reason, finally having a representative for the USMNT on the side will be a soothing balm for many. As always in soccer, there is no guarantee that Nagbe will ever get a call up, but at least it will be a possibility soon.