With a new season for Atlanta United comes some new faces donning the Five Stripes, but after weeks of preseason in the bag, the new pieces are beginning to feel at home. Among those is MLS veteran and former Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who says he feels prepared to start his new journey with ATL UTD on Saturday.
“It feels good,” says Nagbe, “Obviously just fine tuning some things but overall I’m ready, I feel like the guys are ready.”
“I would say I’m excited just to get out there. My new teammates, new team, obviously I’ve been with Portland for a long time so it’s going to be different. But I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to the entire season.”
That’s not to say it’s been an easy adjustment picking up from the West Coast and leaving his home for seven years, but it’s been helpful to have some familiar faces to welcome him into his new family.
“Greg [Garza] and Brad [Guzan], I’ve known them from the national team a bit so having them here. Then Sal Zizzo, we were together in Portland, so having guys here that you’re used to seeing every day makes you feel better.”
“I think the club’s done a great job of helping me and my family get settled, and then my teammates and the coaching staff have done a great job as well. So, so far it’s been good.”
Nagbe, along with some other quality offseason additions, hope to bring an extra spark to an already strong side. And he has no doubt that they possess the tools to build on the success from last season and earn the club’s first trophy.
“Yeah, I would say so [that we could win MLS Cup]. The talent is there, I feel like we’re just as talented as any team in the league so I feel like once the chemistry gets to 100% and we get in tune together, we have what it takes.”
One of the other new talents on the side includes 23-year-old Franco Escobar who, after missing the beginning of preseason with an injury, is beginning to feel synced into the team as well, making it into the side in the last few matches.
“I felt good,” said Escobar through a translator. “I was just trying to get out there and get on the same page and try to learn and understand my teammates and the system that we’re playing. Luckily I think I was able to do that and this week I’ve had a good week of training just getting ready for the first game.”
“Even though I missed some time during training in preseason, it’s a system that I know, that I’m familiar with and from training and from watching videos I feel comfortable and know my responsibilities."
Escobar has come in to bring energy and grit to reinforce the back line, and that was prevalent as he clocked minutes at the right back position in the final friendly matches in Charleston. While he admits he had some jitters representing a new club in a new country, it certainly wasn’t the coach’s playing style or tactics that shook him.
“I know the system, it’s not difficult for me to adapt to that because at my old club at Newell’s in Argentina I was with the youth teams when Tata [Martino] was the coach, so we trained with a similar style. So I’m comfortable with the system. It’s going to take some time to understand my teammates and get to know the league but the system I’m comfortable with."
From the preseason, it’s possible Five Stripes fans could see both Nagbe and Escobar make their MLS debut on Saturday as they kick off the 2018 regular season in Houston. You can catch the match at 3:30 p.m. EST on Univision or tune in to one of our radio partners (92.9 The Game or La Mejor Atlanta). Click here for details on all the ways you can follow the match.