Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote a great article for ESPN on Andy Najar, a 17 year old midfielder for DC United who developed through their youth academy. The existence of these youth academies sponsored by Major League Soccer teams might be the most important aspect of the US effort to win the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Promising teenagers work endlessly on their skills while they live at home with their parents, just like their counterparts in Europe. MLS teams have incentives to develop these academies as the league allows an extra 2 roster spots for graduates and takes a smaller cut of the transfer fee when a player is sold (25% instead of 33%).
Thursday night’s game between DC United and Seattle provided a chance to see Najar in action. He was clearly the most talented player on the pitch. Watching his footwork over the ball evoked thoughts of Allen Iverson. Seriously. Of course, he disappeared the last 20 minutes of the game; maybe we can cut him a break since he’s 17. In Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, he rose above the defense and snapped home a header for a goal, an impressive goal for a 5 foot 7 inch midfielder. Keep an eye on this young man.