Andy Najar is gone: D.C. United sells Honduran international to Anderlecht

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First Shea. Then Kamara. Now Andy Najar appears to be leaving Major League Soccer. It’s a move that’s been churned by the mill all winter, but in the wake of two other name players leaving MLS before the season starts, Najar’s departure looks like part of a larger trend.

More on later. For now, let’s talk about the deal D.C. United just confirmed. The 19-year-old Honduran international moves to the biggest club in Belgium, Anderlecht, for a reported $3 million. That’s the same team that acquired Sacha Kljestan two-and-a-half years ago, albeit for $750,000.

“I would like to thank everyone connected to the club for everything that has been done to help me and my family since I joined the academy years ago,” Najar said via a release posted to the club’s website. “A special thanks to my coach Ben Olsen and all of his staff. I came to D.C. United and chose #14 because I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“It has been very rewarding to watch Andy grow and develop into becoming the special player that he is,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper said. “We wish Andy all of the success in the world and we look forward to watching his career blossom.”

Najar, who is part of the team that will face the U.S. when final round World Cup qualifying begins on Feb. 6, is a former MLS Rookie of the Year who made his debut in 2010. During his time in the league Najar’s been gradually shifted from right wing to right back, a position he held in Ben Olsen’s starting lineup as D.C. United finished second in the Eastern Conference.

In the playoffs, an aberrational mistake from Najar incurred a three-match suspension when he kicked a ball at referee Jair Marrufo during the first leg of United’s conference semifinal against the New York Red Bulls. That may be the last act of Najar’s Major League Soccer career.

“Andy is an extremely hard player to replace with our group but I’m excited for him and the opportunity he has in front of him,” Olsen said.

With their portion of the $3 million sale, D.C. will have a chance to go out and get a replacement, and while that player won’t have the emotional attachment to the D.C. faithful Najar developed after coming through as a 16-year-old Home Grown Player, United should have options. Even if they put their new money elsewhere, right backs being what they are, D.C. should be able to make up for Najar’s loss.

Ultimately, they (and the league) got a very good price. Very few right backs in world soccer go for large fees. That Najar is so talented at such a young age manes he’s one of the few a big club like Anderlecht would be willing to take a chance on. Given how few Major League Soccer players could ever hope for such a high evaluation, D.C.’s gets a minor windfall from the sale.

For now, Robbie Russell is Ben Olsen’s obvious replacement, but don’t be surprised if Olsen explores other options. Between Chris Korb on the left and the combination of Perry Kitchen (in 2011) and Najar on the right, D.C.’s head coach has preferred a different type of player at his fullback positions. Now 33 years old, Russell now projects to be as much as a center half as a fullback.

You want the best players possible at each position, but particularly in Major League Soccer, fullbacks are game defining players. In the bigger picture, there are very few Daniel Alves and Ashley Cole-caliber players in the world, and nobody’s projected Najar, talented though he might be, to get to that level.

He might prove worth a few million more one day, particularly if he comes good as a right winger, but if you’re D.C. and planning to keep Andy Najar at right back, you snatch Anderlecht’s $3 million, kiss the lad on the cheek, and tell him to enjoy Belgium.

Report: Andy Najar on trial at Belgian power Anderlecht

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Andy Najar, D.C. United’s young right-sided star, is on trial at Jupiler League giant Anderlecht, according to reports out of Belgium.

Belgian outlet 7Sur7 is reporting that the 19-year-old Honduran is on a week-long trial with John van den Brom’s club, the team having an option to keep D.C.’s first choice right back through the end of the season. That timeframe would see Najar in Belgium for the start of the Major League Soccer season.

D.C. United has yet to confirm or acknowledge the news (see here and here), while MLSSoccer.com only includes the news as a series of links. Perhaps that’s consistent with this being a trial as opposed to a loan (loans was usually announced and acknowledged), but it’s also consistent with a report that needs a little more backing.

In three MLS seasons, Najar has 10 goals and 11 assists, numbers bolstered by two years at right wing. Playing mostly in defense during the 2012 season, Najar had 0 goals and 4 assists, finishing the season suspended after throwing a ball at the referee during the open leg of D.C.’s conference semifinal against the New York Red Bulls.

The Belgian league, and Anderlecht in particular, would be a perfect spot for Najar, and not only because one American (Sacha Kljestan) already calls the club home (Najar grew up in the United States). The style of play is conducive to a 19-year-old skill player’s development, and while competition for playing time at Anderlecht will be tough, the club is always in Champions or Europa League. There’ll be no shortage of games in which Najar could make a possible appearance.