One of the standouts in the MLS playoffs has been Darlington Nagbe
, who has helped the Portland Timbers move to within one game of their first MLS Cup appearance with a 3-1 win over FC Dallas
in the first leg of the Western Conference final.
Between the conference semifinals and final, Nagbe made his U.S. debut, coming on as a sub in the 6-1 win over St. Vincent & the
Grenadines and 0-0 tie at Trinidad & Tobago. Nagbe, the son of former Liberian international Joe Nagbe
, had a long wait as he applied for U.S. citizenship, but Jurgen Klinsmann
the national team was waiting for him as well.
In an interview with USSoccer.com
wrapping up the recent
two-game series, Klinsmann said he liked Nagbe's multi-faceted game.
“We found a player that is really good handling the ball in both directions," he said. "He is responsible
defensively, to always go behind the ball and to defend, and help out. When we go forward, he knows when to pass, when to dribble, when to keep things racing forward, and also when to take some risks
in a certain moment. He has a change of pace in one-on-one situations when he goes at defensive midfielders. He has the confidence to get past them and to get closer to the box. Darlington is a real
nice option now going forward. He had to wait a long time, and we’ve been waiting for him as well, but it’s a great fit and we are glad to have him on board.”
one of several players who made their U.S. debuts in 2015 or came into their own as national team regulars. DeAndre Yedlin
, who had made only two starts before 2015, and Gyasi Zardes,
who debuted in January, led the USA with 19 appearances. Klinsmann said the most important part is the learning curve for the two players.
"Everybody can see that they are maturing," he
said. "Everybody can see that they are growing and becoming senior players. This is what this path is about, bringing younger players, give them time and give them moments where they don’t
perform or have a bad game and carry them through. Teach them during this path and what they have to improve and hopefully see the benefit later on. At the end of 2015, we saw a lot of good answers
from Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin, and I’m sure we will see even more good stuff in the upcoming year.” Bobby Wood
played just 165 minutes off the bench with no
starts in 2014 and was invisible in his first start in 2015 against Chile. But he finished with four goals in his last eight games, including the winning goals against the Netherlands, Germany and SVG
and the tying goal in overtime of the Concacaf Cup against Mexico.
"He developed more personality, more confidence," Klinsmann said of Wood. "For a striker, confidence is always connected
to scoring goals. After the first couple of games came the moment when he came on the field against Holland and in the last minute scored the winning goal for us, which was huge, not because you beat
Holland in their own country, but it was huge for him that he started to believe in himself. A couple days later, he scores the winning goal against Germany in Germany where he plays, which is another
big confidence-booster. He’s becoming used to the pressure, the expectations of scoring. The expectations for a forward are to score, not every game, but try to score every second game or at the
very least every third game. This is his learning curve now and hopefully he keeps learning, keeps improving, keeps helping us and keep on going through that transition of a World Cup cycle between
the two World Cups.”