There was a moment early in the second half of Sunday’s Timbers-Sounders match when Darlington Nagbe faced up fellow Akron product DeAndre Yedlin on the fringe of the Sounders’ box. The matchup had been a continuing font of frustration for Nagbe over the course of the afternoon. Yedlin had harassed Nagbe up and down the field, even tracking back on his probing runs in time to reject Nagbe’s one-on-one attempts. Most of them were futile.
This particular matchup about 10 minutes into the half was Yedlin’s biggest triumph. Nagbe went to his most familiar ally, the right-footed chop to his left that he pairs with a vicious hip shimmy. As soon as Nagbe cut down on the ball, you see immediately that it lacked its typical venom – it’s almost lethargic – and Yedlin, hardly the best heads-up defender in the league, is on top of the move instantly. Yedlin stretches out his right and megs Nagbe on his own fake, punching the ball out of the box and away from danger. Nagbe, beaten completely, wraps both arms around Yedlin and drags him to the ground to draw a deserved foul. It’s over in four seconds.
This is hardly the Nagbe we’re used to seeing, but it’s the Nagbe that’s been on display for long stretches of 2014 with only occasional interruptions. At this time last year, Nagbe had seven goals and three assists. After being subbed off of Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Seattle at home, Nagbe is sitting on just four assists.
What’s happened to Darlington Nagbe?