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Darlington Nagbe back in training; says he’s happy in Atlanta

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The weird Nagbe saga appears to be moving toward a happy ending.

Darlington Nagbe will travel with Atlanta United to the team’s first Concacaf Champions League match against CS Herediano on Thursday according to manager Frank de Boer. The midfielder returned to training with Atlanta’s first team this week and unexpectedly addressed the media on Tuesday.

Rumors and speculation have surrounded the U.S. international all preseason after it emerged that he arrived to the team’s LA training camp a day late and was sent home soon after.

Nagbe revealed to reporters that he’s happy in Atlanta and that his tardiness and subsequent departure from LA was due to a “personal matter.” The midfielder was vague as to the specific reason why he arrived to training camp a day late and trained with the reserves until he left the team’s camp at Cal State Fullerton early.

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

Darlington Nagbe denied that there was any sort of rift between himself and Atlanta United’s front office.

“No, I mean they’ve been good to me since I’ve come here,” Nagbe said. “You know, there’s been a lot of speculation about Columbus. I can see how that can happen. I’m from there, my former coach is there. But like I said, I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the season.”

Frank de Boer confirmed to media Tuesday that the U.S. international would be one of the 20 traveling to Costa Rica.

De Boer added that there was never an issue between himself and the player and is happy to have Nagbe back participating in first team training.

“He said already it was personal issues and it’s something between him and the club,” said de Boer. “For me there’s no doubt that Darlington Nagbe is a very important part of this group. He proved it already, he’s a very experienced player and quality player. I personally as a coach and as a person never had problems with him, and I’m so glad that he’s back with us and training again with us.”

The saga began shortly after the club arrived in Los Angeles for their preseason training camp. Doug Roberson of the AJC reported that Nagbe arrived to the camp a day later than the rest of the team.

After being held out of the team’s first preseason friendly against the Seattle Sounders, Nagbe was put with the “reserves” to play only 45 minutes against Cal State Fullerton. After that match, it was revealed that Nagbe would not train with the team for the rest of their LA camp. Jeff Carlisle of ESPN has reported that Nagbe was sent back to Atlanta with no explanation as to why.

We at Dirty South Soccer had learned that the Ohio native requested to be traded to the Columbus Crew at some point during this ordeal. MLSSoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal later confirmed this on ExtraTime Radio.

Brad Guzan spoke with the AJC on the matter, calling Nagbe a great teammate.

“It’s between him and the club,” Guzan told the AJC. “I’ve known ‘D’ for a long time. He’s a great teammate. Us as players, us a team, where we will be is where we will be. From our standpoint, he’s obviously not here and we go about our business in a professional way.”

When speaking to 92.9 The Game, the club’s captain, Michael Parkhurst echoed that sentiment, saying he and the team are behind Nagbe.

“We all love Darlington both on and off the field,” Parkhurst said. “So, we support him. With that being said, we hope things get sorted out and we hope he re-joins us because he’s very, very important to our success.”

After days of silence and the season rapidly approaching, we have now been told by a reliable source close to Nagbe that the midfielder will remain with Atlanta United for the 2019 season. Kristan Dyer of the The Athletic reported something similar, saying the issue between player and club seems to be resolved.

Finally, Nagbe addressed the media for the first time this preseason after declining to speak several times and declared that he’s happy in Atlanta.

Saga over?