MLS match between Toronto FC and Atlanta United at BMO Field in Toronto, ON. Canada on October 28, 2018. PHOTO: Steve Kingsman / Freestyle Photography for Atlanta United
Photo: Steve Kingsman/Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photogr
Photo: Steve Kingsman/Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photogr

Atlanta United’s Nagbe: ‘Personal issues’ were cause of lack of time

Atlanta United’s Darlington Nagbe said personal issues were the cause of his lack of minutes with the first team during training camp, but he’s ready to move forward.

To that end, manager Frank de Boer said that Nagbe, whom he described as one of the best players in MLS, will be among those who will travel to Costa Rica for Thursday’s CONCACAF Champions League game against Herediano.

“I’m happy here,” Nagbe said when asked if he was happy with the club and living in Atlanta. “I love the city. Last year was a great year for me and the club and hopefully we can do the same this year.”

Recapping Nagbe’s situation:

After notifying de Boer of his intent, Nagbe arrived a day late to the team’s training camp in Fullerton, Calif on Feb. 2. He didn’t receive first-team minutes in subsequent scrimmages against Seattle on Feb. 2 and Tijuana on Feb. 6. During training sessions, Nagbe worked with the reserves.

Nagbe left training camp a few days early around Feb. 8. The team returned to Atlanta on Feb. 14 after two more exhibitions.  Herejoined the first team in workouts on Saturday.

Nagbe said he arrived late and left early to the California portion of training camp because he was dealing with personal issues. He said something similar has happened before earlier in his career. He didn’t specify when or what.

Nagbe also couldn’t explain why, if he was dealing with personal issues, he was still training with the reserves in California, even playing the first half of a game against Cal State-Fullerton on Feb 6.

“They wanted me to focus more on what was going on,” he said. “I was happy to do that. (They) Let me come back home and take care of that. I’m looking forward to the season.”

Nagbe said he heard the speculation about him trying to force a trade to Columbus to re-unite with Caleb Porter, who was his college coach as well as coach of his first MLS team, Portland. He said he understands why he was being tied to the Crew. He is from Ohio, played in college there at Akron and Porter is now managing a team in the state.

Nagbe said he has no issue with members of Atlanta United’s front office, saying the relationship is “OK” and noted they’ve been good to him.

Atlanta United acquired Nagbe in a trade with Portland in Dec. 2017. The trade cost Atlanta United $750,000 in General Allocation Money, $300,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and an International spot.

In Nagbe’s 23 starts during the 2018 regular season, the team went 14-5-4. He was named to the 2018 MLS all-star team but missed the game due to injury.

De Boer said he told Nagbe when the issues started to tell him when he was ready to re-join the group.

“No doubt that Darlington Nagbe is a very important player for this group,” de Boer said. “As a coach and as a person, never had problems with him. So glad he’s back with us and training with us.”

Nagbe said he hopes to get into same games to win the trust of the coaching staff.

De Boer said Nagbe will be one of the 20 players who flies to Costa Rica. He did not say if he will be among the 18 players available for selection on game day. He thinks Nagbe could play between 30-60 minutes against Herediano, if he’s needed.

“For me, it’s great to have him back,” de Boer said. “Every club in MLS wants this kind of player on their roster. It’s my first season. I want the best players on my roster. Nagbe is one of them.”

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