19-year-old midfielder left off Honduras roster
Dwayne De Rosario and Dejan Jakovic will both get up and get on a plane Sunday morning after D.C. United's match this weekend against New England, headed for Canadian national team duty. Meanwhile, Andy Najar can roll over and go back to sleep.
Najar was left off of the Honduras roster announced Monday for the opening of 2014 World Cup regional qualifying next month, another mystifying omission by a national team program that couldn't wait for the 19-year-old to pledge his international future only a year ago.
"I was very disappointed when I heard that," United coach Ben Olsen said. "I thought he earned a call-up. But he's got the Olympics to look forward to, and he's got D.C. United to look forward to. The only way to prove to the Honduras staff that he's ready to be on that stage is to keep doing what he's doing with D.C."
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If it sounds familiar, that's because Najar similarly missed out on the CONCACAF Gold Cup last summer when signals got crossed between the Honduran federation and D.C. United. Najar eventually made his international debut in a pair of friendlies in September.
A better line of communication was established between D.C. United and Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez when the parties met during United's preseason training stint in Arizona. Najar went on to have an impressive showing for the Under-23 Honduras team, also coached by Suarez, as it surprisingly qualified for the Olympics in April.
Najar's time away from D.C. also cost him his starting position. In part aided by injuries to other players, he has slowly reclaimed a role and has started United's last four matches. He's also had to play an unfamiliar role on the right side of the D.C. United defense in four of the last five matches.
In last weekend's 3-1 win over Toronto, Danny Cruz's early exit with a hamstring strain paved the way for Najar's return to right wing, where he used his technical skills to elude two defenders in tight space before crossing to Hamdi Salihi for D.C.'s third goal.
Asked about his comfort level, Najar said through an interpreter, "I've been playing there for two years, at right midfield. I think that I work every day to do the best. I hope that I'm doing everything for the team at that position."
For now, though, it isn't enough to earn a spot on the Honduran team. Najar missed Tuesday's practice with a minor groin strain, but United (7-4-3) still expects to benefit from his presence. D.C. will need him, particularly with Cruz expected to miss four weeks.
"He's playing like himself. He's playing hungry and like he's got something to prove," Olsen said. "It's been a year or two since I've really seen Andy consistently play with the hunger I see in him right now. Competition will do that sometimes, and I'm very happy that he had another good game. The plays he was making on their defenders were pretty fun to watch."