Skip to content

Thinking through Andy Najar’s prolonged absence

Nov 10, 2012, 9:50 AM EDT

New York Red Bulls v DC United - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

Word came down from on high yesterday: Andy Najar will get two extra games off for throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo during last Saturday’s game. He missed the second leg of DC United’s semifinal with New York, and now he’s set to sit both halves of the Eastern Conference final. Expect Robbie Russell to get the call at right back for Ben Olsen.

What exact does that mean for United? What do they lose in the switch from Najar to Russell?

In defense, DC’s unlikely to miss much. Russell, now 33, might be a downgrade if Houston played somebody more fleet of foot down their left. Then Najar’s speed would be missed. Against Brad Davis, Russell might actually be a better bet to prevent some of those dangerous crosses into the box.

Russell’s experience may also be a bonus for United. Having played a part in Real Salt Lake’s 2009 title run (as well as appearing for Rosenborg in UEFA Champions League), Russell has as much big game experience as anybody at Ben Olsen’s disposal. Against Dominic Kinnear’s bag of tricks, that may come in handy.

Going forward, however, Najar will be missed, especially for a United team that’s generating few good chances in attack. A lot of that is due to the team’s passive defensive approach, their willingness to absorb pressure leaving them unlikely to generate the midfield turnovers that can lead to easy transition chances.

But beyond tactics, Najar, a converted midfielder, is just much better getting forward than Russell, who has only two goals and nine assists in parts of five Major League Soccer seasons. In the last stages of his career, Russell is now more of a traditional fullback than Najar. He’s even seen time in central defense for United. Though he was good for the odd goal during his years in Norway, Russell doesn’t pose an attacking midfielder’s threat.

I’m not convinced it will make that much of a difference. With Najar adapting to right back, he’s still learning how and when to utilize his attacking talent. Some times we see it, as we did in flashes against New York. Often, we don’t. Much of the excitement surround Najar at right back is more about the 19-year-old’s promise than his present.

Against a Houston team that doesn’t give teams many opportunities in transition, Najar’s forays forward could have had little effect, though it would have still been an x-factor, of sorts.

Najar’s suspension means the team has had to sacrifice that wild card for the certainty of Russell’s defending. It may prove a meaningless trade-off.

Latest Posts
  1. Three former players at center of Austrian match-fixing investigation

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    Kuljic Reuters

    A trio of players have been charged in a match-fixing ring involving 17 first-division matches in the Austrian Bundesliga since 2004.

  2. Americans Abroad Preview: Howard looks for bounceback vs Manchester United

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Howard Getty Images

    Everton takes on Manchester United this weekend as the American shot-stopper hopes to save their Champions League dreams.

  3. Felix Magath’s blueprint to save Fulham revolves around the fans

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Magath Getty Images

    The German manager says when he was brought in the players were afraid of his reputation, but that fear has long since dissipated.

  4. Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Stoke City

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    Stoke City are on a tear, but they have yet to truly figure things out away from the Britannia. Can Cardiff City capitalize on the Potters’ shaky away form for a second straight surprising result?

  5. Report: 10-year-old daughter of former FIFA official received over $3 million

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT

    Teixeira Getty Images

    Whether this new corruption allegation implicates Ricardo Teixeira with regards to the Qatar World Cup bid or his ties to Barcelona, it’s more bad news for the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation.

  6. US Soccer names roster for U-21 Olympic prep camp

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT

    Ramos AP

    With the World Cup still over two years away, Tab Ramos is beginning preparation with North American-based players.

  7. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs Sunderland

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT

    Mourinho

    Jose Mourinho has guided Chelsea to an astonishing nine straight clean sheets at Stamford Bridge. Can the bottom-dwelling Black Cats pull off an unforseeable upset?

  8. Yaya Toure believes his African heritage hurts his world perception

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    Toure AP

    Following in the footsteps of Samir Nasri’s comments last month, Manchester City’s Ivorian believes being from Africa is preventing him from reaching the game’s individual pinnacles.

  9. Homegrown star Shipp hoping to guide Chicago to first win of 2014

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Source: USA Today Source: USA Today

    With Chicago the draw specialists early on, can they beat New England on Saturday? Watch live on NBCSN, 4 p.m. ET:

  10. Valencia police issue Bale a “speeding ticket” for Copa Del Rey final goal

    Apr 18, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    Bale AP

    With the game played in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, the local law enforcement decided to have some fun…at Marc Bartra’s expense.

  11. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 35

    Apr 18, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    nbcsports_new

    Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 35:

  12. Jurgen Klinsmann on Jozy Altidore’s situation, USMNT squad and more

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Italy US Soccer AP

    U.S. national team head coach speaks out on Altidore, USMNT squad, American Outlaws and more:

  13. Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:

  14. Wayne Rooney hands Manchester United boost, will return vs. old club Everton

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    Two goals from Wayne Rooney in the first half helped United to a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. AP

    Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:

  15. MLS Insider: Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman – Pair of Aces

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

    Art by J McQuade Art by J McQuade

    Beckerman and Bradley; the perfect midfield combination for the USMNT?

  16. Week 7 Preview: Fire look for first win vs. Revs; Dallas gets its crack at Toronto

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT

    jhon_kennedy_hurtado_felipe AP

    MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title