The United States lost a promising national team player today when Andy Najar officially announced he would represent Honduras in the 2011 Gold Cup and thus be eligible to play for their national team. Najar, the 2010 Rookie of the Year in MLS, comes from the Central American country but has lived the past few years in Alexandria as he came up through the DC United youth system and attended Edison High School.
Despite the hope that Najar would eventually join Bob Bradley’s team, this decision made sense on multiple levels. Despite living in Virginia the past four years, Najar would have had to maintain residency in the states for another few years in order to qualify as a citizen for purposes of playing for the U.S. The residency clock would have stopped if Najar went to play overseas which, if he builds off a stellar rookie campaign, is a distinct possibility. By choosing Honduras, he is eligible to not only play in the 2011 Gold Cup but can join the Honduras’ U-20 team and possibly play in the 2012 Olympics.
From a U.S. national team perspective, this is not a major loss in the short term. Najar plays on the wings in the midfield and would be behind Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the depth chart. Maybe eventually he could move inside, but it would deprive his team of a speedy threat on the wing and he fits more of an attacking role needing space than a distributor. Long-term however it deprives the U.S. of a tantalizing option in the midfield. Najar is the type of player the U.S. currently lacks: quick, works well by creating space, and a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Imagine the Russian World Cup in 2018 where a U.S. team captained by Michael Bradley has Mikkel Diskerud in the middle, creating scoring chances for Najar on the wing and Juan Agudelo up front. That is a pretty entertaining scenario, one that had to have U.S. fans salivating.
In the end, losing Andy Najar isn’t as devastating to the U.S. as losing Giuseppe Rossi, if for no other reason than Najar does not play a position of absolute need. But it does rob the U.S. of an intriguing option for the future and a playmaker who may one day be the kind of difference maker the Americans have sorely lacked.