If you’ve been around the Major League Soccer for quite some time, you know it’s never easy to transition from one team to another, especially in a league that’s becoming popular so quickly. But when Darlington Nagbe was approached about a move back to his home state to reunite with his former coach Caleb Porter and join Columbus Crew SC, there wasn’t a doubt in his mind.
After speculation dating back to the start of 2019, the move was made official back in November. Nagbe, a Lakewood, Ohio native, was coming back home to reunite with Porter, who coached him both in college at Akron and in the early portion of his MLS career with the Portland Timbers.
Nagbe, 29, is now in his 10th year in the league and has never been more excited to get a fresh start with a well-known coach and a special group of players that helped welcome him with open arms.
“I would say this has been the easiest team to transition into,” Nagbe told columbuscrewsc.com in the preseason. “I knew some of the guys before, maybe it’s being in the league awhile. I think it’s just good players — technically and tactically — being aware of what we’re trying to do and being on the same page, and the coaches have done a great job of getting everybody on the same page so that’s what made it easier.”
Nagbe spent the previous two seasons with Atlanta United where the focal point of the club is Josef Martinez. In his time with the Five Stripes, Nagbe scored two goals and recorded seven assists. But statistics have never been where Nagbe thrives. The midfielder controls the game and dictates tempo, often starting attacks that end in goals.
Now that he’s with Columbus, it’s apparent that he has big shoes to fill after the departure of hometown hero and club captain Will Trapp. But Porter, who also coached Trapp at Akron, knows he’s replaced the Crew’s Homegrown player with someone who will make his team better.
“We’re confident in Artur and Nagbe,” Porter told Massive Report of this year’s central midfield pairing.
Nagbe joins the midfield corps of Luis Diaz, Lucas Zelarayan, Pedro Santos and the aforementioned Artur. With this dynamic attacking midfield group, Columbus should often be on the forefront of games is the players develop the necessary chemsitry.
“[Zelarayan] is more attacking minded, our creator and No. 10,” Nagbe said in the preseason. “My job is going to get him on the ball as much as possible, Pedro as well.”
“I think because we have a lot of talented guys on the attack, we want to be on the ball as much as possible.”
With the recent additions to the team, building chemistry is the first thing that this team has focused on. Nagbe in particular worked hard to make sure he got to know his new teammates in Columbus
“Not just chemistry on the field, but off the field, that’s what’s most important,” he said.
When asked by Massive Report about if re-coaching Nagbe is almost like riding a bike or not missing a beat, Porter expressed that “This whole team’s like riding a bike, to be honest with you.”
The Black & Gold coaching staff has made a tremendous amount of moves over the last year, so getting the players acclimated with one another and meshing the new players into the system Porter has in place will be vital to success. But the preseason buzz surrounding this team is as high as its been in years and for good reason.
“Everyone, with the additions that we had and people that are already here is looking forward to it,” Nagbe said of his first season with the Crew. “I think also with the buzz of the new stadium and new training facility and things like that, I think people start talking so it’ll be a good year for us.”
The Crew opens the 2020 season on Sunday, March 1 against New York City FC at home. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 pm EST.