If the writing wasn't on the wall already, it very well could be now - unless it isn't, that is. D.C. United appear to be acting like they have an Andy Najar -sized hole to fill in the fullback ranks - drafting left back Taylor Kemp, inviting left back Neven Markovic for trial - but their words are saying something very different. Dave Kaspar told Steve Goff that the team expects the Honduran international to return from his loan to Belgian champs Anderlecht in the next two weeks. MLSSoccer.com has also reported that Ben Olsen is preparing for the season with the expectation that Najar will be a part of it.
Meanwhile, we know that Anderlecht has already had one offer to buy Najar rejected by United, and that they could be contemplating another bid. We're all pretty certain that the rejected bid was nothing like the rumored $8 million offer that probably never was (or will be). Beyond that, we're pretty well in the dark.
So let's do some speculation. Right now, if we have Andy Najar, he's got to be the starting right back, with Daniel Woolard and Chris Korb vying for the starting gig on the left. (Just for the record, if Woolard is fully fit, I would guess that the job is his to lose.)
If we don't have Najar, though, then what? The first answer is probably to pick two of Woolard (left), Korb (either) and Robbie Russell (both). Of course, before yesterday's draft that would leave the Black-and-Red with no other natural fullbacks beyond those three. Enter Taylor Kemp and Neven Markovic. Both provide cover on the left side, which frees Korb to move back to the right fulltime, making the Black-and-Red at least two deep on each end of the back line. So, the team must think Najar is as good as gone, then, right?
Not so fast. Ben Olsen told Goff that Woolard could be used as cover in the center of the defense more extensively this year, which is why the team pulled the trigger on drafting Kemp. There are bound to be trialists every year, so maybe we shouldn't read too much into Markovic's invitation to training camp in Bradenton.
Then again, of course the team isn't going to say publicly if they're already figuring out how high Najar's transfer would stack if it was paid in all single dollar bills. Maybe we should take anything coming out of RFK with a healthy dose of salt. What if Olsen and Kasper know that we know that they know that we're skeptical and so they're just telling us what we expect to hear... This could escalate really quickly.
Ultimately Taylor Kemp doesn't tell us much of anything new about Andy Najar's place with D.C. United (or Anderlecht). Olsen and GM Dave Kasper must know that Andy's a lock to be gone at some point, if not this winter then probably before this time next year. Our primary back-up at right fullback is also likely to retire after this coming season. Knowing this, waiting until Najar and Russell are gone to shore up depth at fullback would not be an acceptable plan anywhere besides Chivas USA and Toronto FC (pre-Kevin Payne).
And so we get Taylor Kemp. But we still don't know whether Najar's days on East Capitol Street are finished just yet.