Nagbe’s goal brings his mother to tears
Timbers rookie’s first goal earns spot on SportsCenter
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
BEAVERTON, Ore. — Darlington Nagbe brought his mother to tears on Saturday.
Turns out that was Nagbe’s favorite reaction to his first goal as a professional soccer player — a phenomenal strike that was chosen by ESPN’s SportsCenter the play of the day on Saturday and the play of the weekend.
“My mom cried when she saw it on ESPN, so that was the best (reaction),” Nagbe said following Tuesday’s practice.
The goal came just before halftime in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City was the type of strike that likely won’t be matched no matter how long Nagbe plays the sport.
The play started with a Timbers free kick from the left side. Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched the ball in an attempt to clear it from trouble. Nagbe, from near top right corner of the 18-yard-box, saw the ball floating his direction.
The midfielder later said his first instinct was to strike the ball toward the goal right out of the air, but he didn’t feel comfortable with the angle
So — without letting the ball hit the turf — Nagbe put his right foot under the ball. He juggled it twice with his right foot then drove a volley under the crossbar.
“I’ve never scored a goal like that, so it was exciting,” the soft-spoken rookie said. “It was just instinct. I was just trying to get the shot off and juggling it was the only way I could get the shot off.”
Timbers head coach John Spencer, who on Friday had told the 20-year-old Nagbe that he would score his first goal against Kansas City, said the rookie will never score a more spectacular goal.
“I don’t think he’ll ever score another one as good as that,” Spencer said. “That’s my opinion.”
It is also Spencer’s opinion that if Nagbe’s name was Mesi or Ronaldo, the goal would be blowing up worldwide.
As it is, the goal is getting plenty of play from ESPN.
On Tuesday, it was leading a SportsCenter Best of the Best poll against a bare-hand play by Florida Marlins second baseman Omar Infante.
Nagbe’s reaction to having his first professional goal splashed across ESPN platforms?
“I still can’t believe it,” Nagbe said, repeating, “I still can’t believe it.”
As spectacular as the goal was, it wasn’t a shock to Spencer. The coach ranks Nagbe among the best natural talents around.
“I think he has the potential to go and play amongst the best in the world,” Spencer said. “He has that natural soccer ability. He has the natural soccer talent that Landon Donovan also has.”
The 29-year-old Donovan has, of course, been the face of American soccer for a while. So the comparison is high praise.
Of Donovan, Spencer said, “He’s very, very experienced and he’s in the peak of his career. He plays consistently well every week. That’s why he’s the best player that America’s ever produced, in my opinion.”
The coach’s message was clear: Nagbe has a lot of work to do to make the most of his potential.
No matter how far his talents take him, no matter how many goals Nagbe scores, his first professional goal will be unforgettable.
• Spencer said on Tuesday that his lineup for Thursday’s exhibition match against Mexico’s Club America will feature players who haven’t seen much action lately and are not likely to be in the lineup for Sunday’s showdown against the Sounders FC. The game is not part of the season-ticket package, and plenty of tickets remained on Tuesday.
• Defender Rodney Wallace missed practice on Tuesday. He was injured at the very end of Saturday’s loss to Kansas City, and Spencer said a precautionary MRI was on his leg was scheduled. ... Forward Bright Dike saw some time in the 11 on 11 scrimmage.