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BEAVERTON, Ore. – It was supposed to be the moment Darlington Nagbe announced his presence as one of the top players in MLS.

It was the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs, and the Portland Timbers attacker struck for a world-class goal at CenturyLink Field to send his team on their way to a sweep of the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semifinals. It capped a breakout season in which he recorded a career-high nine regular-season goals.

But since then, coming into last weekend’s match against those same rivals from Seattle, Nagbe had lost that goal-scoring touch – in a big way. Before that match at Providence Park, Nagbe had scored just one goal in 49 — yes, 49 — league matches.

For a player of his talent, it’s a shocking statistic.

“Yeah, I think that’s been a little bit of the story in the last year and half with him,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “He hasn’t found that first goal to open up his account. That’s key. When you score nine goals in 2013, he scored in the first game of the year, and that tends to relax you a little bit more.”

But despite the lack of production, Nagbe has constantly been involved. 

“He’s been playing really well,” Porter said. “He’s been getting chances.”

He finally finished one of those chances against Seattle, scoring a rocket from outside the area to spark the Timbers’ 4-1 victory over the Sounders.

So, once again, the question ariese: Will that goal be the spark Nagbe needs to get back into his scoring groove?

“It felt good, just goal-scoring wise, but everything else I felt like I was still confident going into that game before the goal,” Nagbe told on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s nationally televised bout with the San Jose Earthquakes. “Hopefully, that goal gets me more goals.”

As the questions about Nagbe’s goal drought persisted this season, especially with the Timbers attack struggling earlier this year, Porter insisted Nagbe was still an integral part of the team, pointing to his chance creation. He has three assists this season, and recorded a career-high seven last year.

And this year, Nagbe is taking more shots. His 28 attempts is on pace to eclipse the 42 he took last year, which was the lowest total since his rookie campaign in 2011.

“You can see he’s been more aggressive recently looking to shoot,” Porter said. “That’s been evident. He shows he wants to score, and he showed [against Seattle] what he is capable of doing. So I think this will be –hopefully — the first of many for him.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for

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