HILLSBORO, Ore. – Portland Timbers rookie phenomenon Darlington Nagbe took a turn as a fan over the weekend.
But he didn’t attend the MLS Cup or another high-profile event. Instead, Nagbe bundled up on a cold, crisp Saturday morning, drove 15 miles west of Portland to Hillsboro Stadium, and cheered on the Woodburn High School boys soccer team in the Class 5A state championship game.
And it was all thanks to a promise he made to a Woodburn senior midfielder over the summer.
During the Timbers' season, Nagbe attended a coaching clinic at Woodburn High School along with fellow midfielder Eric Alexander as part of the club’s community outreach. And after the clinic, Daniel Guerra approached Nagbe with a question.
“I just went up to him and said, ‘I’ve got a proposal for you, Nagbe,’” Guerra said.
He asked if Nagbe would attend their game if they advanced to the Class 5A state championship game. Woodburn, a small, predominately Hispanic community 30 miles south of Portland, is somewhat of a soccer powerhouse in Oregon, so much so that a book entitled “The Boys From Little Mexico” was recently published about them after the Bulldogs won last year’s 5A title.
“No one else had the nerve to ask him,” Guerra said. “It wasn’t going to hurt if he said no.”
But Nagbe said yes.
And on Saturday, one of MLS’ most promising young talents, fresh off being awarded Goal of the Year last week, followed through on his promise and watched in entirety Woodburn’s 2-1 victory over Wilson (of Portland), along with his fiance Felicia Houtz.
“It was great,” Nagbe said. “They had a lot of fans. Everyone was into the game, a lot of cheering, so it was fun.”
After Woodburn’s victory, Nagbe mingled with fans – many of whom were shocked to see the Timbers star at the game – signing autographs, high fiving players and posing for pictures.
“The fans are great, you know,” Nagbe said. “They came out to support their teams even though it was cold, just like the Timbers Army always comes out.”
And for Woodburn players, it was difficult to discern what was more exciting, their second consecutive state championship or having a MLS star as a fan.
“It means a lot because we’ve never had a famous person come watch us,” Guerra said. “We’re Woodburn. People think of us as a lower community. But having someone like that come means a lot to us, you know. It was exciting, and I appreciate him for coming.”