For the past two weeks, Andy Najar has represented Honduras on one of the most glamorous stages the sporting world has to offer, wearing the blue and white of Los Catrachos while introducing his dynamic play to observers around the globe.
D.C. United’s crafty 19-year-old winger started three matches at the London Olympics for Honduras, an impoverished nation of 8 million, which secured surprise passage to the quarterfinals before falling to favorite Brazil on Saturday in a spirited 3-2 contest.
“I’m very happy right now, thrilled for what the team was able to accomplish in the Olympics,” Najar said via a translator. “The high point was definitely the match against Brazil. We knew what we were playing for. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way.”
With Najar back in the mix, United coach Ben Olsen now has another option at wide midfield, though the player also could fill in defensively with starting fullbacks Robbie Russell (plantar fasciitis) and Daniel Woolard (concussion) sidelined.
“He looked good today, and fresh,” Olsen said. “We’ll be smart with him. It’s still an emotional ride, those tournaments, and I’m sure he’ll take a day or two to fully get back to D.C. United. But it was a great tournament for them.”
Najar impressed for Honduras during the Olympics group stage, starting all three matches as his squad went 1-0-2. In a stunning 1-0 upset of Spain, he helped set up New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson’s early goal.
But the midfielder was relegated to the bench for the match against Brazil. Even with Honduras trailing late, coach Luis Fernando Suarez declined to insert Najar during his side’s late push for an equalizer.
“I’m not really looking for an explanation,” Najar said of the snub. “I’m just happy for my teammates because they performed really well.”
With his group stage exploits, however, Najar has seemingly caught the attention of several English Premier League suitors, with Britain-based Sky Sports reporting that Wigan Athletic, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion all are interested in his services.
“I just get very happy when I hear that,” Najar said. “If the opportunity comes, I’ll just make the best of it.”
With such rumors swirling, it could be all the easier for Najar to suffer a post-Olympic letdown as he transitions back to playing in the more modest settings of MLS.
It’s a challenge familiar to Olsen, a longtime United midfielder who played for the U.S. at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“I’ve been through that,” Olsen said. “Whether you do well or not, it’s intense, being a part of the Olympics, and doing very well is maybe even more taxing. … We just have got to get him here mentally, and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”