Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer
Darlington Nagbe has been working double-time lately in an effort to get match fit by the time the Chicago Fire roll into JELD-WEN Field on April 14 for the Timbers’ home-opening match.
Nagbe, who underwent sports hernia surgery on March 4, is working hard to get his legs and lungs back to full strength following his first substitute appearance of the season against the New England Revolution last weekend.
“It’s a process; he’s been out a long time,” head coach John Spencer said of Nagbe. “We’ve seen in the game, he comes in, he shows flashes. But, when you don’t have the ball you’ve got to work as hard as everybody else and I just felt his fitness level, and he said it himself, that it wasn’t at the level that it needs to be to be playing week-in, week-out for 90 minutes.
“The days are ticking by and the game’s coming up quickly so we need guys to be ready.”
The 2010 Hermann Trophy award winner as college soccer’s best player has been putting in extra work with the athletic training staff following practice this week working on core strength and cardiovascular fitness.
“I’m definitely getting there,” Nagbe said following Friday’s team training session. “I’m feeling better and better each time I get out and practice.”
Another benchmark on the road to full-match fitness arrived Saturday as Nagbe played the full 90 minutes and scored in a scrimmage against Oregon State University in Corvallis. On top of all the work he’s putting in to get ready for Chicago, Nagbe’s also getting used to a ball at his feet again.
“It may not seem like it, but just little things on the ball – little touches, movements here and there – it just takes a while to get it back. I’m definitely making progress and I’m happy with that,” he said.
The injury has been a new experience for Nagbe, who said it was the first instance he’s had to deal with rehabilitation and missing playing time.
“This is the first time, so it’s a little irritating,” he said. “I’ve never sat out anything before until now. It’s tough because we’ve already went through preseason and I feel like it’s another preseason, but I feel like it’s all going to be worth it.”