Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe helped spark the U.S. to a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago Saturday night in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
Nagbe, who started his second match in a row for the USMNT and played the full 90 in the game, contributed a key role in setting up the first of teammate's Christian Pulisic's two goals on the night. After recovering a loose ball near midfield, Nagbe took off like a shot towards the T&T end, shimmying past defenders before combining with Clint Dempsey on a give-and-go play to unlock the Soca Warriors' backline. Nagbe then held the ball up in the 18-yard box, laid it off for defender DeAndre Yedlin, who then placed it across the face of goal for Pulisic to hammer in.
The win puts the U.S. at seven points and third place in the qualifying hexagonal heading into Sunday's match against Mexico in Mexico City (5:30pm PT, FS1). The top three teams of the hex qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with the fourth-place finisher taking on the fifth-place finisher from Asia for the final slot.
While Pulisic justly earned plaudits for his brace in the match, many soccer commentators recognized Nagbe's strong performance in the game as well.
“When your teammates have confidence in you and your coaching staff has that confidence in you, it definitely feels good," Nagbe told Sports Illustrated after the match.
“I think [Nagbe's] an exceptional player. I think he’s a very talented kid,” U.S. head coach Bruce Arena told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s just beginning to experience this level…I believe in him.”
Elsewhere in World Cup qualifying, ten-man Costa Rica held on for a 0-0 draw against Panama in San Jose, Costa Rica with Timbers midfielder David Guzmán coming on in the 69th minute. The Portland man helped the Ticos to a clean sheet and earn a key point to move into second place in the hexagonal standings.
Costa Rica will next host Trinidad & Tobago Sunday at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica at 8pm PT.