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LAFC 2020 player postmortem: Andy Najar

A swing and a miss on this signing.

Los Angeles FC v Portland Timbers - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Andy Najar was signed by LAFC in 2020 looking for a change of scenery and a good homecoming to MLS. The reality was far more rocky.

Najar was coming off nearly a decade with Anderlecht in Belgium, where he had long runs in with the league champs, but also long stretches out of the squad while he battled injuries.

The Honduran international had left D.C. United as a fresh-faced teenager to join Anderlecht, one of the early success stories of the homegrown era in MLS. Moving back to right back in Belgium from his original right winger spot, he wasn’t a superstar in Europe but had had a good run. But coming off injuries and Anderlecht sagging in form over a couple years, it was time to move on.

LAFC pulled out some stops to get him, trading a good bundle of cash to Nashville SC for the top spot in the Allocation Ranking. But hey, it’s not every day you find international-caliber right backs freely available (aside from Steven Beitashour, but I digress...).

Here are Najar’s stats with LAFC in 2020:

Andy Najar 2020 LAFC Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 8 1 180 0 1 0 0 1 0
MiB Knockouts 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CCL 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 8 1 180 0 1 0 0 1 0

Najar was officially signed ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament, although he had been in the team’s plans long before that. Considering he was coming off a major knee injury, and the restart didn’t feature a full-on training camp, Bob Bradley said he was planning to bring Najar into the lineup slowly, something that is fully in keeping with Bradley’s approach to new signings in general. Aside from exceptions like Brian Rodriguez or Jesús David Murillo, midseason signings typically are slowly given playing time, generally.

He did come in slowly, but there was never any progression in the season. He made one start, at the Seattle Sounders in September, but only lasted to halftime.

You could argue the volume of games really hurt Najar, because he didn’t have the days off to get into a rhythm, and he also struggled to build up his fitness and get 90-minute fit. The games just came too fast, and he kept getting hurt again.

By the time he got hurt the last time, another game against the Sounders, he subbed on, appeared to hurt his hamstring, and had to come off after seven minutes. From there, 10 more games in LAFC’s season, there was no more talk of Najar playing for them.

I think it’s rotten luck, honestly. I don’t think Najar dogged it, I think his body let him down. And I really do think a normal schedule, that didn’t feature the team playing through a pandemic and games every three days, would have given him a better shot of finding his footing with LAFC.

Instead, Najar was supposed to be at worst the insurance policy for Tristan Blackmon and at best the starter himself, and both players ended up injured down the stretch and LAFC were absolutely exposed there, playing pretty much anyone who was game. They just couldn’t count on him, and it’s a shame.

I hope he can get healthy and find another team to find some real redemption. But I also understand why LAFC decided not to pick up his contract option for 2021. Najar was a risk, but he had a good track record overall in his career. But the injuries just held him back, and so it was a risk that backfired in the end. That happens sometimes, but hopefully Najar — still only 27 — can find one more contract and spot to get playing time and continue his career from here. We’ll see what happens for him.

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