WASHINGTON – The next two months could prove to be busy for one of D.C. United’s many talented forwards. In addition to his MLS commitments, striker Hamdi Salihi was called up to the Albanian national team on Wednesday for the side's friendly against Moldova on Aug. 15.
The Designated Player plans to depart D.C. on Aug. 12 following a match against Sporting Kansas City, then return on Aug. 16.
“To play for national team is as high as one player can reach,” Salihi said. “It’s always good when you play for your country and for your fans and people who like and support you.”
World Cup qualifiers loom in September – against Cyprus and Switzerland – which likely means Salihi, who has scored nine goals in 37 matches with Albania, will likely miss more MLS action, something he wasn’t necessarily thrilled about speaking to after Thursday’s training.
“It’s a little bit, you know, it’s not good for the club because you have to go there, come back and then play on weekend a match here,” Salihi said.
However, head coach Ben Olsen will have options in Salihi’s absence. Long Tan has been running with the first group this week and Maicon Santos is second on the team with seven goals. It remains to be seen how Salihi’s form will hold up when he returns from his trip.
“I’ve seen it go both ways,” Olsen said. “I’ve seen them come back with confidence and I’ve seen them come back absolutely exhausted. That’s part of this stuff. We always want our guys to be in international competitions and playing for their national teams. They’re good players and they’re doing a good job.”
In May, Olsen spoke with Albanian national team coach Gianni De Biasi when the team played friendlies against Qatar and Iran and decided against Salihi traveling to play in those matches. This time, the 28-year-old will go, but Olsen’s club should be well-prepared.
“I think we’re ready for that challenge as a group. It’s refreshing to start having to rely on some guys that have been working very hard, playing well in reserve games and for them to get their shot,” Olsen said.
Najar impresses at the Olympics
Honduran winger Andy Najar is garnering quite a bit of attention playing for his national team in London’s Olympic Games. The 19-year-old started all three of Honduras’ matches in group play, including a 1-0 upset of Spain, and should again log significant minutes Saturday when Honduras attempt to upset Brazil.
“It’d be nice to have him here, but I hope they go as long as they can,” Olsen said on Tuesday. “I think he has played fine. I don’t know the inner workings of that group, but obviously he’s doing pretty well right now.”
Reports by Sky Sports on Wednesday said that Wigan, Norwich and West Bromwich have all showed interest in Najar, who could cement himself as an attractive target for Premier League teams should he continue to show well.
“Andy’s doing extremely well,” United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said Thursday. “We’ve all been watching him and rooting him on. It was a great result against Spain and the team looks like they could go far. We wish him the best of luck.”
Najar has played 13 matches with United this season and has two assists in 965 minutes.