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Nagbe’s late winner propels USMNT past Ecuador
Now is Darlington Nagbe’s time. The brilliant qualities of the Portland Timbers winger often evade the scoresheet – a deft first touch, the ability to accelerate past a player, or pick out an incisive through-ball — but there are all too fleeting moments when he can come roaring into action and impact a game like few American players can.
Tonight was an excellent example of one of those occasions. Picking up on a fantastic performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS last weekend, having netted a lovely free-kick, Nagbe’s late volley gave the United States victory over Ecuador in an international friendly in Texas.
Nagbe’s first international goal rescued the friendly, a warm-up for the upcoming Copa Centenario, from the doldrums after a drab first half. His halftime substitution breathed life into the three-man United States midfield, which had an astounding combined age of ninety-six at kickoff, and contributed to the perception that he could be the future of the national team if he can start consistently producing these types of performances.
Elsewhere, Jürgen Klinsmann’s Copa squad was less convincing. The United States lacked snap up top in a tepid first half as neither side created a single shot on target in the opening forty-five minutes. Jefferson Montero tested DeAndre Yedlin down the left wing, but the US did well to limit their South American opponents to half-chances from distance.
The dynamism of half-time substitutes Bobby Wood and Nagbe helped bring the US out of their shell, though, and Jermain Jones ripped a thunderous effort from twenty-five yards before Michael Bradley shaved the crossbar from a similar distance on the hour mark. The US recovered some much-needed possession and continued to push for a winner as more substitutes, Alejandro Bedoya, Christian Pulisic, Matt Besler and Michael Orozco came rolling in.
The Ecuadorian defense began to fall apart and the US finally found a breakthrough in the eighty-ninth minute. DeAndre Yedlin floated a cross in from the left that was cleared high into the air and Wood climbed the highest to head the ball down to Nagbe, who cushioned the ball onto his chest and angled a clutch side-volley into the back of the net.
For Nagbe, this summer is his chance to prove himself with the national team. When asked who had the most to gain in the US midfield this summer in an interview with ESPN’s Taylor Twellman, Klinsmann responded Nagbe without missing a beat. For the national team, and especially Nagbe, this was a promising start to the summer.
Homepage photo credit: Steindy (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons