WASHINGTON – D.C. United midfielder and reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar ended months of speculation surrounding his international on Tuesday: He will be a Catracho.
Reading from a prepared statement, 18-year-old Najar spoke in his native Spanish and announced his intention to represent Honduras at a press conference at RFK Stadium, explaining that he would represent the Central American country if and when selected.
“It was a decision that my heart told me,” he said through a translator. “It came strictly from my heart."
Over the past few months, various media reports surfaced seeming to indicate Najar had chosen which country he would represent. However, the teenage star refuted each report, explaining he wanted to wait finish his first year as a professional and earn a high school diploma – something that he’s expecting to wrap up in a few weeks – before picking a side.
[inline_node:325362]Additionally, because Najar is currently a green-card holder and is a few years away from being eligible to obtain his US citizenship, choosing to represent the US would have meant the midfielder’s international debut wouldn’t take place in the near future.
But his immigration status had nothing to do with his decision, he said. Najar is relieved his international future is now clear, as the speculation became a nuisance off the field.
“It was a distraction for me because it was a question that I was asked constantly,” he said, “and I was just waiting for the right moment to make that decision.”
With the speculation behind him, Najar can go back to focusing on his season with D.C. United and handle any international commitments as they come up. The teenager started the first two games of the year before coming off the bench in Sunday’s loss to Colorado.
Ben Olsen has been reminding Najar that this year isn’t going to be an easy one.
“I’ve preached to Andy that this is going to be a difficult year for him,” Olsen said. “I was in the same situation – Rookie of the Year; the second year, it’s not that easy. It’s important for him to keep the passion and the running off the ball, and all those little things that make him special, it’s important for him to keep that going."
With his decision to represent Honduras, Najar could play for the Catrachos as soon as this summer in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Furthermore, if Honduras beat Panama on Wednesday in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and thereby clinch a spot in the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia this summer, the midfielder would be eligible for that competition as well.
“If I get called up, with great pleasure I will go and represent my birth country and contribute my two cents,” said Najar.