On the first day of the international break, Major League Soccer gave an MLS Team of the Week honor to midfielder Darlington Nagbe. After a match where the Columbus Crew gave up a late goal to the New York Red Bulls, Nagbe did what he always does, staying the course. He found himself on the end of a cross into the penalty box in the fifth minute of stoppage time. A small toe-poke was all it took to steal two points from the Red Bulls, giving the Crew the draw.
This is an honor that Nagbe could honestly win on most weeks. The central midfielder is heralded league wide as a top player. Currently in his 12th season in MLS, Nagbe is a top passer in the league, averaging 95.7 percent so far in 2022 and 94.7 percent since joining the Black & Gold in 2020.
Those passing numbers aren’t for show either. Nagbe is crucial in developing play and connecting the defense to the offense through sharpshooter-level passing. Also, Nagbe garners attention in the midfield, causing free kicks in dangerous areas for Columbus. When Nagbe gets the ball, rarely does the midfielder give it away.
The difference on Sunday was his composure in the final third. In stoppage time, the Crew was reeling. In the 84th minute, the Black & Gold gave up a set piece goal that bounced around the penalty area, ultimately off goalkeeper Eloy Room before it was finished.
In the closing minutes, midfielder Lucas Zelarayán went down with a non-contact injury. It was an injury that required Zelarayán’s removal for the rest of the game and now he will stateside instead of traveling to Armenia for national team duty.
Down a man, and a goal, Columbus won possession in the midfield. Substitute Alexandru Matan charged down the field, finding an open Gyasi Zardes at midfield. It was at this point that the veteran Nagbe had the wherewithal to move up into the penalty area. Winger Luis Diaz received a pass from Zardes and held onto the ball, showing great patience, before passing to a charging Steven Moreira down the sideline. The fullback sent in a cross that Matan let go by, which landed to the feet of Nagbe. Always showing a calmness on the field, Nagbe tapped the ball past New York goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.
This Team of the Week honor is the sixth for Nagbe in black and gold.
So far in 2022, a Crew player has been named to the MLS Team of the Week in each of the first four weeks of the season. Up until this week, it was Zelarayán named each week, with winger Derrick Etienne Jr. on Week 3’s Team of the Week bench.
Nagbe’s goal was the 10th of the season for the Black & Gold in four matches. Although Columbus only walked away with one point, it was a performance that the team can carry into the international break as a positive. Scoring against a strong Red Bulls defense on the road is no easy task and Nagbe was the man to finish it off.