January 19, 2019

Nagbe nets first goal to defeat Ecuador

Nagbe Darlington 10 of the United States celebrates with Christian Pulisic #17 of the United States after scoring against Ecuador during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium. Photo: AFP

Liberian-born striker Darlington Nagbe scored in the 90th minute Wednesday to give the United States a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in a warm-up match for the Copa America Centenario.

Nagbe, a 25-year-old midfielder for the reigning Major League Soccer champion Portland Timbers, netted his first goal for the American squad in dramatic fashion after becoming a US citizen last September and making his American debut last November.

Bobby Wood, a 23-year-old forward of Japanese and African-American heritage who signed with Bundesliga side Hamburg 10 days ago, centered the ball in the dying seconds of regulation time and raced onto a high header that failed to clear the penalty area, outleaping a defender and nodding the ball to unguarded Nagbe.

Nagbe took the ball on his chest and fell to the turf while sweeping his right leg around and blasting the winning shot into the back of the net past Ecuador goalkeeper Esteban Dreer, who entered when starter Alexander Dominguez injured his left leg making a free kick catch in first half stoppage time.

Nagbe, a half-time substitute for Kyle Beckerman, was five months old when his mother fled their homeland due to a civil war. They joined his father, a footballer in France, and moved to Greece and Switzerland before setting in the United States.

Three days after the Americans won 3-1 at Puerto Rico in their first Copa America Centenario warm-up match, they improved their all-time record against Ecuador to 3-5 with five drawn. Since 2001, the Americans are 3-1 with two drawn.

The US team will face Bolivia on Saturday in its final tuneup match for the Copa America Centenario opener on June 3 against Colombia at Santa Clara, California. The Americans also face Costa Rica and Paraguay in group play.

Ecuador kicks off its Copa run on June 4 against Brazil at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and plays other group matches against Peru and Haiti.

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