Marco Pappa finds out the only way to stop Andy Najar
Our team doesn't deserve any trophies for this season. But there is one individual on the team who does deserve a trophy. He's the best player on the team, and he also happens to be the youngest. It's Andy Najar.
He's got a legitimate shot at winning the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year award. His five goals this season puts him behind only Danny Mwanga of the Philadelphia Union, but there are several reasons why the competition for this award shouldn't even be close.
This is the first year where I'll be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to vote as a media member for the MLS Player Awards, and I plan on casting my Rookie of the Year vote for Andy. Here's why:
1. The Story - Remember when we asked in the preseason "What's up with this kid?" We all thought it was so darn cute that United would let one of their Academy players play with the first team. We thought that at 16 Najar was just getting the opportunity to see what MLS life is like. We thought he might be a candidate for a homegrown player contract around 2012.
Boy were we wrong.
Najar is a major success story for the MLS Academy program. It's incredible that a kid can play soccer for the first time at age 12, not play an organized match until high school, and then at just 17 he would be scoring against the LA Galaxy by outjumping the 6'-5" 2009 Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez. How could anyone who supports MLS teams having Academies vote for anyone else but Andy Najar? Ahem.
Mwanga was drafted first overall in the MLS Superdraft. He's met expectations. Meanwhile, Najar continues to exceed every expectation that's piled upon him.
2. Positional Flexibility - Najar started his career with the Youth Academy as a right fullback. In early reserve matches, he was used as a central defensive midfielder. He's started 20 games for United as a right winger, but also has been moved to forward when the situation calls.
How many positions does Mwanga play?
More importantly though, Najar is among the best players in the league at his position. Aside from Landon Donovan, how many attacking wide midfielders would you take over Andy Najar?
3. The Potential - Najar has the potential to be starting for any one of the biggest clubs in Europe in a few years. Mwanga's likeliest future destination is probably Denmark.
If Najar can go from an Academy standbout to the best player on a professional team in less than 12 months, just think what he can do in the future. He's just getting started. No really. He's JUST. GETTING. STARTED.
When I cast my ballot for the 2010 MLS player awards, I'll be voting for Andy Najar. And you should be too.