Debate: The most 'must-see' athlete in D.C.

Debate: The most 'must-see' athlete in D.C.
October 21, 2011, 3:45 pm
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The most must-see young athlete in D.C. isn't Alex Ovechkin, John Wall or Stephen Strasburg.

It's 18-year-old soccer phenom Andy Najar, who - in a year and a half - has gone from D.C. United youth academy member to one of the best players in all of Major League Soccer. The title of D.C.'s most 'must-see' star isn't given away without an argument... so let's start.

Andy Najar or Alex Ovechkin

Sure Alex Ovechkin is more highly-paid, well-known worldwide, and even has his own hilariously awful Eastern Motors commercial. But thanks to a 13-year contract worth 124 million, Ovechkin isn't going anywhere. The same can not be said for Najar, who's time at RFK - and on this side of the ocean - is quickly running out.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think something would come, potentially, for Andy within the next year," says Najar's agent, Chris Megaloudis, of an opportunity to play overseas. "I definitely think something will. Now it's just a matter of analyzing that opportunity for all parties involved."

The 'parties involved' are Najar and D.C. United. The club, likely to pocket a multi-million transfer fee, can't afford not to sell their young star. Najar, who has admitted to dreams of playing in Europe, will - if he isn't already - soon be ready for the next level.

If you want to see Ovie, take your time. Heck, have a kid, raise him or her as a Caps fan and they'll have time. The window to see Najar in D.C. is closing. And quick.

Andy Najar or John Wall

Is John Wall the best point guard in the NBA? Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Deron WIlliams are just the start of a pretty decent argument against that.

Is the top overall draft choice from 2010 the best young point guard in the league? Far from it. Think Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for that honor.

Is there one aspect of Wall's game where the 21-year-old is tops in the NBA? Maybe top-end speed. And how many times per game do NBA players actually sprint the full 94 feet? Not much, and certainly never on defense.

Najar is the best at his position in MLS and the league's top young player. He's also, arguably, the best dribbling player in American soccer. Football announcers say a running back could 'make a tackler miss in a phone booth' to describe guys like Reggie Bush and Barry Sanders. Najar brings that same shake to soccer.

"He has the ability to be running full speed, come to a complete stop and then accelerate in a different direction better than anybody I've seen in our league in a long time," says United President Kevin Payne, who has been with the Black-and-Red since the club was founded in 1995. "Andy really enjoys going at people with the ball and he's pretty darn good at it."

It's the difference between seeing the good and seeing the very best. If you want good, the Verizon Center will do. If you want the very best, you have to be at RFK.

Andy Najar or Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg is Najar's toughest competition for the title of most must-see young star in D.C. The Nats' hurler will soon be one of the best pitchers in the league. He is a huge draw from an attendance standpoint, packing Nationals Park on days where he pitches.

But can Strasburg put those people on the edge of their seats better than Najar? I suppose that depends mostly on which sport you prefer. But lets put it to the very scientific YouTube test. Watch 30 seconds of Strasburg's best, then Najar's.

"When he plays on that right side, the whole right side of the stadium gets up when he starts running with the ball and cutting at people. It gives me goose bumps right now," says Thomas Rongen, recent U.S. Under-20 coach and current color voice for D.C. United broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet. "If you can get the crowd on their feet almost every time when you touch the ball you get into a special category of players, in the whole world, quite frankly."

Next chance to see Najar is Saturday. Then comes a long offseason where offers are sure to flow in for the Honduran teen sensation. It is unlikely that this Saturday would be his last game with United, but in the quickly shifting world of global soccer, you never really know.

In a town known more for our sports phenoms than recent success, don't be the guy who missed the best of the bunch.