Growing up in Lakewood, Ohio, the Crew was the team for Darlington Nagbe when it came to watching professional soccer.
"[The Crew] were the closest professional soccer team to me and my family, so if we watched a game on TV it was the Crew, and if we got a chance to go and watch a game, it was the Crew," Nagbe said.
After a seven-year stint in Portland and a two-year stop in Atlanta, Nagbe's journey to Ohio is painted with a couple of different tinges, both personally and professionally.
"Having the opportunity to come down here and play for the Crew and represent the Crew, I’m ecstatic," Nagbe said. "I’m excited about it, my family is excited about it. My family – they love sports – so I think for them getting the opportunity to come down and watch me play every weekend or every other weekend, that’ll be a great opportunity for me and them."
Nagbe moved often as a child before emigrating from Liberia to Lakewood. Now, as a father and professional athlete, Nagbe lands in central Ohio - two hours south from his hometown - and finds Columbus to be the right city at the right time.
"I think when you are younger and moving, you don’t realize it as much. You just move and pick up where you left off, and move and try to pick up where you left off," Nagbe said. "I think when you are an adult and the roles are reversed, and you’re the father in the situation, you always want to find a place where your kids can grow up, spend a long time and be around the people that you care about, and I think Columbus is the city for us to do that."
From both the personal side and the soccer side of things, Nagbe expanded on the significance of the move to the Crew.
"If we are talking the personal side of it, I’ve just been gone a long time, so I think it’s a good time, just personally, for my family and myself to come home," he said. "And then on the soccer side of it, I’ve done well with the teams I’ve been on in the past before and coming back here, with everything going on with the new ownership – with [Tim] Bezbatchenko coming in and Caleb Porter – hopefully I’ll be one of the players who help bring another championship to this city. I’m looking forward to it."
Nagbe, a nine-year MLS veteran and a 2016 MLS All-Star, has won two MLS Cups, one U.S. Open Cup, and a Campeones Cup. At the international level, he has earned 25 caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team, winning the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2017.
Just like the city of Columbus, the ambitions of Nagbe's childhood club-of-choice are growing. As a champion in respective soccer cities noted for their passion, the 29-year-old saw the devotion of Columbus' fans, particularly over the past two years, and explained why he looks forward to what is certainly going to be a difference-maker in the new Downtown Stadium.
"I would say you see a lot of teams that have a new stadium downtown and the location, they get the backing of the fans and I think if you can get an environment – I think home-field in this league is such a big thing and it’s so important – so I think being able to build this place and have it be a fortress, and when teams come here, they don’t look forward to playing here because they know it’s going to be a tough game, so I think everything going on is definitely going to help," Nagbe said.
Accomplished at every level, Nagbe has proven to be a stalwart player. Now, as the Club continues its offseason moves, prior success only creates the want for more, Nagbe said.
"I know I’ve won two MLS Cups and a couple of other trophies out in Atlanta, and I think being able to win one here would be special as well, and hopefully not just one, hopefully many more. But I think getting that taste of winning, you always want to taste it again so I would say I don’t get satisfied, and now that I tasted it, I want to get more and more."