Olsen: Gold Cup snub a "blow" to DC phenom Najar
WASHINGTON — For Andy Najar, this June was supposed to be about stepping on the field and representing his native Honduras for the very first time in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
But a tricky series of events and a back-and-forth between D.C. United and the Honduran federation threw a wrench in the plans, before Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez finally decided late last week not to call the midfielder into camp.
Najar was back on the training field Wednesday with D.C. United, and the youngster will spend the next month playing for his MLS club.
“Let’s be honest: It’s a blow for him, and I think he’s taken a couple days where it’s been on his mind,” coach Ben Olsen said. “My message to him is refocus. Get on with it — you’re a young kid and you’re going to have plenty of [chances].”
While the 18-year-old midfielder admitted he was anticipating a Gold Cup call-up, he appeared to be at peace with the decision while speaking to reporters after training.
“Things happened the way they did, and I can’t really control that,” Najar said through a translator. “I’ve just got to keep working hard and looking ahead to my future.”
After originally getting a call up from the Honduran federation as part of the preliminary roster, D.C. United sent a request to Honduras asking to keep Najar through a June 3 game against the LA Galaxy.
According to DC officials, the Honduran federation, however, never responded to the request until an e-mail was sent to DC informing them Najar wouldn’t be called up.
“Prior to selecting the final roster, there were 15 days to lock-up players who play abroad," Honduran federation spokesperson Edwin Banegas said. "Preliminary invitations were sent to several players who play outside Honduras. In the final list of 23 that was announced by [coach Luis Fernando] Suárez, Najar was not included because of a technical decision”.
Najar did, however, get to speak with Suárez directly about the decision.
“I talked to the coach and he told me that I was a young player, that this time I wasn’t going to be on the roster but he would keep me in mind for the next call-ups coming up,” Najar said.
Earlier this year, Najar declared his intention to represent his home country, where he lived until he moved to the United States as a teenager. Last week’s setback hasn’t made him rethink his decision, however, and he’ll still support Honduras and watch them compete at the Gold Cup.
“The next time there is an opportunity to go to the [Honduras] national team, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Right now, the opportunity wasn’t there for me, so I’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Olsen seemed surprised Najar hadn’t been called, but will certainly welcome keeping one of his brightest talents on the team. D.C. United travel to Portland to take on the Timbers on Sunday.
“I think it’s a crime that they haven’t called him in," Olsen said. "They’re missing out on a great young talent. They make those decisions and we’re happy to have him for the next month. He needs to continue what he’s been doing here, and that’s putting people on their heels and creating opportunities for us.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.