D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar will probably announce within two weeks whether he is committing to the Honduran or U.S. soccer program, his Washington-based agent told the Insider on Thursday.
“I know he’s getting close to becoming comfortable with making it public,” Chris Megaloudis said. “I don’t think it will happen today or tomorrow but probably in the next 10 days. He’s eager to put it to bed. It will be good for everyone’s peace of mind.”
If Megaloudis knows which way Najar is leaning, he isn’t saying. But from what I can gather from independent sources, the 2010 MLS rookie of the year is planning to play for Honduras. If all goes well, he would make his debut at the U.S.-hosted Gold Cup this summer.
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Najar, 18, is a native of Honduras who has lived in the United States for about five years. He is an American green card holder (for permanent residency), but in order to play for any U.S. Soccer Federation squad, he needs citizenship, something that is at least two years from happening.
A few weeks ago, the Honduran federation approached Najar about joining its under-20 team for CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying tournament, which is now underway in Guatemala. But because the MLS season was nearing and he had endured a sluggish training camp, Najar concluded that, even if he wanted to play for Honduras, the CONCACAF event was too soon and would interfere with regaining his form for United.
Megaloudis acknowledged that he talked to Honduran officials about Najar’s potential involvement in the qualifying event but said they haven’t broached the possibility of future call-ups.
“In the last six or seven months, Andy has figured out what he wants to do, what’s best for him, what’s best for his family, what’s best for his career,” Megaloudis said.
Through his mother’s lineage, Najar is also eligible for El Salvador, but with no direct ties there, that possibility is all but out of the question.
My take: Najar should commit to Honduras because:
*He’s Honduran. And although he has acclimated to American life since settling in Northern Virginia, begun to learn English and someday will gain U.S. citizenship, his roots are in Central America.
*He can play in an international match right away while continuing to develop in a pro environment in Washington. Unless the U.S. government intervenes – and that seems highly unlikely in these complex times -- he wouldn’t become eligible for an American team until 2013, at the earliest. By then, he will have missed the 2012 Olympics and the early rounds of 2014 World Cup qualifying.
With Honduras, he could begin laying the groundwork for a roster spot on both squads. Playing internationally as a teenager would also boost his visibility overseas and, ultimately, bolster his club career.
*There’s no guarantee he will ever play a minute for the U.S. senior national team. There’s no guarantee he’ll play for the Catrachos either, but the U.S. player pool (and the competition for roster spots) is much deeper than Honduras’. If he were U.S. eligible now, he would probably be with the U-20s for the CONCACAF qualifiers, but while that is a notable accomplishment, it’s a long way from a 2014 World Cup roster slot.
With all due respect to Roger Espinoza, if Sporting Kansas City’s midfielder is capable of starting in a World Cup for Honduras at age 23 (twice last summer in South Africa), Najar is on the right track for 2014 and beyond. That is, of course, if Honduras qualifies. The CONCACAF avenue is traditionally more treacherous for the Catrachos than the Americans, who have participated in six consecutive World Cups. And after a pair of humbling friendly losses in Asia the past week – 4-0 at South Korea and 3-0 at China – Honduras could use the help.
We await Najar’s decision.