Najar ready to fight for spot upon Olympic return
A few crunching tackles and well-driven crosses servednotice at D.C. United’s training session Tuesday morning: There will be noOlympic hangover for Andy Najar.
“It’s every soccer player’s dream and I’m so glad I had theopportunity,” said Najar, moments after his first practice since returning fromHonduras’ quarterfinal run at the London games. “Now, it’s time to get back to work.”
A starter in all three first-round matches, Najar played amajor role as Honduras advanced out of a group that featured tournament-favorite Spain and eventual-semifinalist Japan. For any nation, reaching the Olympic quarterfinals is a great feet, butin Honduras - a soccer-starved country with a population of less than ninemillion - advancing past the group phase was an historic accomplishment.
Najar, never one to brag, believes his team can now countthemselves among the most successful Catrachos sides of all time.
“I think it’s the best in history,” said the D.C. United Academy product, whowas Honduras' youngest player in London. “Passing to the second round, no team in any category has done that, weare all happy with the performance.”
Honduras bowed out of the tournament after a thrillingbattle with Brazil on Saturday. Despite not playing in the game, Najar - who returns to D.C. healthy ifnot a little jet-lagged - marks the contest as the highlight of his time inLondon.
But surely – after starting three consecutive matches – themidfielder must have been disappointed at being left out of Luis FernandoSuarez’ quarterfinal plans.
“No I’m fine,” Najar responds, flashing a genuine smile thatsupports his peace with missing out on the quarterfinal clash. “These are things that happen in soccer. I didn’t get that opportunity againstBrazil, but I was happy to be there cheering on the bench. The effort my teammates gave was enoughfor me to be happy.”
While his teammates enjoyed a hero’s welcome in Honduras,there will be no honeymoon for Najar. On Tuesday Ben Olsen acknowledged that the club would be ‘careful’ withthe returning Olympian, but that Najar would likely be in his plans for Saturday’scritical showdown with Sporting Kansas City.
“I am ready,” Najar confirmed. “I know I have to come back here and fight for a spot in theteam. Nothing is guaranteed.”