Nagbe, 27, was acquired by Atlanta United in December in a trade from Portland, which he helped lead to the MLS Cup in 2015. He was brought to be a box-to-box midfielder, linking defense to offense with his dribbling and passing ability. Though he has yet to score and has just three assists, his play has helped the Five Stripes lead MLS in points (34) and goals scored (34) this season. Because of his dependability and durability, Nagbe led Atlanta United in playing time, missing just 40 minutes and 13 seconds of the entire season.
“He’s been very important for us this season,” captain Michael Parkhurst said on Sunday. “He does a lot of things that probably go unnoticed especially with some of the bigger names on the team getting the headlines. He doesn’t have a ton of stats, but he does a lot of work with Jeff (Larentowicz) in the middle. He’s just such a good two-way player, really connects the team defensively to offensively. Possession-wise, he’s so important for us because he doesn’t lose the ball. He’s just so clean in and out of pressure. He just makes our life a lot easier in the back.”
Manager Gerardo Martino said on Sunday, before knowing Nagbe’s diagnosis, that he has several options should the midfielder miss time.
The first is to move Julian Gressel from the right side of the formation into the middle. His position as a right wingback or right midfielder could be filled with either Sal Zizzo as a fullback, or Hector Villalba or Brandon Vazquez as a midfielder.
Kevin Kratz could also slide into Nagbe’s role, which would minimize the number of personnel changes within the formation.
“He (Kratz) brings a little bit of a different look in there,” fullback Mikey Ambrose said. “I thought he played well and he does well to connect everything. We lose a little bit, but we gain a little bit but either way, they’re both good players.”
Nagbe’s injury is another in a litany of injuries the team has overcome this season.
The bad luck started in the preseason with Villalba, Franco Escobar and Jose Hernandez forced out with various injuries.
It continued into the season with striker Josef Martinez sustaining a broken hand and then nose, midfielder Miguel Almiron a shoulder injury and fullback Greg Garza being lost for 4-6 months because of a recurring shoulder injury.