Skip to content

Thinking through Andy Najar’s prolonged absence

Nov 10, 2012, 9:50 AM EST

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. Report: Dani Osvaldo elects for Juventus return, making early Giovinvo exit possible

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:30 PM EST

    Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan

    Osvaldo-to-Juventus could mean Giovinco-to-Toronto happens six months early.

  2. David Beckham says progress still being made toward MLS stadium in Miami

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    David Beckham David Beckham

    The latest update from Beckham on building a stadium, bringing an MLS team to Miami.

  3. DONE DEAL: Mattia Destro, Juan Agudelo sign with new clubs AC Milan, New England Revolution

    Jan 29, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Mattia Destro, AS Roma Mattia Destro, AS Roma

    What went down on Thursday, the 29th day of this January transfer window? A full recap, inside.

  4. Juan Agudelo signs with New England Revolution, completes return to MLS

    Jan 29, 2015, 5:36 PM EST

    Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht

    Agudelo is back in MLS, where he probably should have been all along.

  5. Russia to cut budget for 2018 World Cup, as economy continues to struggle

    Jan 29, 2015, 3:18 PM EST

    FIFA FIFA

    Putin and Russia have already had to cut costs for the 2018 World Cup.

  6. Alexis Sanchez an injury concern for Arsenal

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:43 PM EST

    Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League

    Arsenal’s main man is touch and go for this weekend’s game against Aston Villa.

  7. Daniel Sturridge could return from injury for Liverpool this weekend against West Ham

    Jan 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Liverpool FC Training Session

    Liverpool’s leading striker could return to action this Saturday after five months out.

  8. How will Chelsea, Manchester City line up in huge Premier League clash?

    Jan 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EST

    Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    With players out and title dreams on the line, how will Chelsea and City line up on Saturday?

  9. VIDEO: Jurgen Klinsmann’s a stud, backheels TWO balls at the same time

    Jan 29, 2015, 11:43 AM EST

    jurgen_klinsmann Getty Images

    Watch Klinsmann’s insane piece of skill from the friendly vs. Chile on Wednesday. My word.

  10. Lots drawn: Guinea in, Mali out as Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals set

    Jan 29, 2015, 11:08 AM EST

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH24-GUI-MLI FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH24-GUI-MLI

    Guinea won the lottery and are through to the last eight. Here’s the quarterfinal field for AFCON.

  11. Freddy Adu heading back to MLS? Reports claim two teams interested

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:45 AM EST

    Fredy Adu made his first start for Bahia in Brazil. Getty Images

    Former D.C. United, RSL and Union player heading back home?

  12. DONE DEAL: Arsenal, West Brom and Villarreal all got new players Wednesday

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    arsenal.com arsenal.com

    So what went down on Wednesday, as the transfer window took another step toward slamming shut?

  13. VIDEO: Christian Eriksen scores a free kick for the ages in League Cup semi

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Set up for a free kick outside the 18, Eriksen not only sent an arrow whizzing over the goal, but he managed to spin it into the far upper 90.

  14. Real Madrid will change the name of the Santiago Bernabeu

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:58 PM EST

    Bernabeu Getty Images

    The La Liga giant has woked out a sponsorship deal with United Arab Emirates-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

  15. USMNT postgame reaction: Jozy unsure of 3-5-2, Klinsmann explains changes

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Klinsmann AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann remained upbeat, while Jozy Altidore was obviously disappointed.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22