Last year, Andy Najar’s second season in MLS got off to a slow start.
After entering D.C. United’s preseason camp a bit out of shape, Najar’s lack of fitness cost him a starting spot at the beginning of the year – although he ultimately proved himself and won back a place in head coach Ben Olsen’s starting lineup.
This offseason, with the 18-year-old looking to making another big impression, neither he nor the D.C. coaching staff was going to let that happen again.“We made sure Andy got the message pretty clear that we were expecting a lot from him in the offseason,” head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com before the team left for Arizona. “We keep tabs on him – kept tabs on everybody – but he was disappointed with himself the way he came in last year.”
A December training stint with Tottenham in England got Najar’s offseason off to the right start, as he got a taste of the highest level of soccer with the Premier League club. Between that and spending time working with D.C.’s strength and conditioning coach, he enters this preseason in much better shape.
“I worked a lot more this year than in comparison to last year because I went to England, so I did a lot more work before preseason and I’m in better shape than last year,” Najar said through an interpreter.
Aside from the chance to continue building his stature with United and within MLS, Najar also is looking to make a name for himself at the international level.
With CONCACAF Olympic qualifying set for this March, Najar is eligible to represent Honduras and play a role in becoming one of two CONCACAF teams that qualify for the Olympics.
“It’s every player’s dream to represent his country,” Najar said. “I think the Olympics would be a great chance to do that. I just simply have to wait and see what the coaches decide.”
However, the qualification process would require Najar to miss a small chunk of time early in the MLS season. In order to help facilitate D.C. releasing their talented youngster, Honduran national team coach Luis Suárez met with Olsen and the D.C. coaching staff in Arizona on Tuesday, according to Najar’s agent, Chris Megaloudis.
Regardless of the outcome of that meeting, Najar enters the 2012 season with rising expectations this year with United, and he’s hoping to continue to live up to those aspirations – just like his coach thinks he will.
“I expect in his third year, he’ll be great,” Olsen said. “He’s certainly committed.”