Darlington Nagbe will get a shot at his old squad when the Atlanta United host the Portland Timbers on Sunday in a battle of two teams in quality form at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Nagbe, a smooth, play-making midfielder, spent seven seasons with the Timbers before being acquired by Atlanta this offseason. United sent a potential total of $1.65 million to Portland for Nagbe. It’s paid off in the early going for the Five Stripes, who lead MLS with 33 points.
“You always want to win no matter who you’re playing against,” Nagbe told MLSsoccer.com. “So there’s no conflicting emotions, but I’m looking forward to seeing the guys.”
The Timbers are unbeaten in their last eight games, including six wins, but Sunday’s showdown at Atlanta will be their toughest test of the season to this point.
“You can see that offensively, it’s a very strong team,” Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese said of Atlanta in his weekly press conference. “It’s a team that has resources, creativity. They’re very dynamic. They can be dangerous and punish you even in moments that, maybe, they’re not playing as well, because they have the quality to score goals and create situations.”
Atlanta striker Josef Martinez leads MLS with 14 goals, four more than any other player. Martinez suffered a broken nose in the Five Stripes’ win over the Columbus Crew on June 13. He is expected to play Sunday and will wear a protective mask.
“I’m still waiting for the mask that I want,” Martinez told reporter this week. “Hopefully I look like Batman. It affects me a little bit because I’m not used to wearing it while I’m playing. Sometimes it covers my eyes and it’s a little tougher to see when the ball is coming. The doctor says I have to wear it for six weeks.”
Portland will be without a pair of midfielders in David Guzman and Andy Polo, who are both on international duty.
This will be only the second meeting between the two clubs. They played to a 1-1 draw last season in Portland.
—Field Level Media