Hi, my name is Rob. This will be a Darlington Nagbe Copa America review without mentioning Jurgen Klinsmann. Starting...now.
The Portland Timbers midfielder came into the Copa riding a mini wave of success. He had come off the bench in the final two warm-up friendlies against Ecuador and Bolivia to record a goal and assist between his appearances. It appeared as if Nagbe would play a big part for the United States in this tournament. Would he fulfill those expectations?
Nagbe played in three of the six matches in the Copa, all as a substitute. Here are his numbers:
Games Played: 3
Defensive Actions: 2
You may be thinking to yourselves right now, "Rob, why did you pick a guy who played 47 minutes over more important players?" -- Well, that's how the order of selection went. I apologize.
When contemplating positive moments for Nagbe, it has to be a good sign that in the three matches the U.S. were down in, he was called on to make a difference. Even over the backup striker Chris Wondolowski. He wasn't trusted to start in important situations, but when desperation kicked in, he was there. That's better than not being used at all, I suppose. As for on the field, he didn't hurt his chances at more playing time. He was confident with the ball in his few minutes and helped maintain possession just a little bit better when he came on.
On the opposite side of the equation, it's a puzzling thought that people keep referring to Nagbe as a young player. At 25, Nagbe has 171 caps in MLS and is already smack in the middle of his prime. He's not getting younger and treating him as a green prospect is doing him a disservice.
In his measly 47 minutes he didn't do much at all. The third-place match was his most effective outing, blowing past players and drawing a foul. His free kick attempt was the team's last shot on goal of the tournament, so there's that. But all-in-all he did very little. Is he to blame? Maybe. His role was to be an impact substitute and he didn't deliver. Expecting Nagbe to be a dynamic sub in 15-20 minutes of action was never going to work out. He is and has always been a 90-minute player who takes over the match in spurts. His intricate and precise passing and movement over a full match is what makes him such a valuable player. He has never been and will never be a super-sub.
Copa Grade: Incomplete
Despite playing three matches, he barely got over a half of soccer under his belt in the entire tournament. It's completely unfair to judge him based off that really small sample size, just like it's unfair to think he should be starting based off two good friendly performances.
We can only speculate that Nagbe will continue on to play a role for the national team. His skill set and superb technical ability makes him a special player. He will likely continue being an important player for the Timbers. Only time will tell if he'll be given the chance to do the same for the USMNT.