Atlanta United currently boasts the best record in Major League Soccer, but staying on top will be a bit tougher now after losing a key starter to a long-term injury.
U.S. national team midfielder Darlington Nagbe is set to miss two to three months with a right adductor injury, Atlanta announced on Tuesday. Nagbe suffered the injury during the Five Stripes' 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
Acquired via trade from the Timbers before the 2018 season, Nagbe has settled into a steady role in Atlanta United's midfield. Playing less of an attacking role, Nagbe has yet to score his first goal for his new club but has contributed three assists and started all 17 of the club's matches this season.
Despite the lack of attacking stats, Nagbe has been effective in helping serve as a link between the Atlanta defense and attack, leaving the attacking duties to playmakers Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco.
Atlanta United coach Tata Martino won't have an easy time replacing Nagbe's ability to keep possession in midfield. Hector Villalba had been pushed to the bench with the arrival of Barco, but replacing Nagbe with Villalba in the lineup could leave Atlanta vulnerable defensively. Chris McCann is a more defensive-minded option in central midfield and could be asked to fill the void.
A member of the U.S. national team squad that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Nagbe still figured to play a role with the national team going forward, though Atlanta United did not release him for the USMNT's most recent friendlies. He last appeared for the United States in a starting role in a 1-0 friendly win against Paraguay on March 27.
Atlanta United returns to action on Saturday at home against Orlando City.