Last week, Darlington Nagbe’s efforts with the United States Men’s National Team culminated in him earning his first international medal. On July 26th, the U.S. defeated Jamaica in the CONCACAF 2017 Gold Cup Final by a score of 2-1, marking the Yanks’ sixth Gold Cup title.
“It felt great,” said Nagbe of the experience. “It was my first medal with the team and it felt great to be a part of it.”
Nagbe, one of the six players called up by head coach Bruce Arena prior to the quarterfinal with El Salvador, made three appearances in the tournament. The midfielder played all but four minutes during his stint with the national team and delivered strong performances, much to the pleasure of his coach.
“[Arena] was just pleased with me,” Nagbe said. “He told me just to continue what I’m doing. He’s going to be there with me, helping me, pushing me, trying to make me the best player I can be and I’m grateful for that.”
Although getting called up for international duty can be an exciting experience, joining the team partway through the tournament also presents a challenge when crafting chemistry on a shortened schedule. “Obviously guys are coming in from different teams, different clubs and coaches. Bruce [did] a great job getting everyone on the same page, and putting the chemistry together and putting guys that play well, together.”
Nagbe admitted the process of getting to know MLS rivals as teammates was a little strange at first, but the Gold Cup experience allowed him to become more comfortable with the players.
“There’s a lot of good guys and you get to know their personalities and it’s fun playing with them. Obviously, winning my first medal with them makes it better,” he added.
When asked about the opportunity of facing some of his Timbers teammates in the tournament, Darlington smiled, “It was good. It was fun.” Nagbe recalled his experiences going up against David Guzmán and Costa Rica in the quarterfinal, as well as Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell in the final. He even mentioned how, in the final, he took advantage of his proximity to Powell on the field to rib his Timbers’ roommate a bit.
“I told him to take it easy on me,” Nagbe chuckled. “He fouled me a couple times but he’s still my brother.”
Despite the memorable goals, rivalry matches, and friendships made, Nagbe revealed his favorite Gold Cup moment was celebrating the final victory with his family.
“I got to bring my kids on the field and walk around with them. They weren't there when I won with the Timbers in Columbus, but they got to be there for Gold Cup so that was cool.”
With the conclusion of the Gold Cup, Nagbe has returned to Portland—medal in hand—to rejoin the Timbers in their 2017 MLS campaign. While he works toward winning his second career MLS Cup, the 27-year-old also looks forward to building off the momentum of the Gold Cup and returning to play for U.S. Men’s National Team in the future.
“Hopefully it leads to bigger things with us qualifying for the World Cup and me being part of the team.”