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Najar makes most of big occasion
July 22nd, 2013 1:03AM

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[GOLD CUP: Quarterfinals] Andy Najar, who settled in Alexandria, Va., only 50 miles away and won the MLS Rookie of the Year award with D.C. United in 2010, picked the right time to score his first international goal for Honduras. It gave the Catrachos a 1-0 win over Costa Rica that returned them to the Gold Cup semifinals for the third straight time. Najar's family was among the thousands of Honduran fans who attended the match in Baltimore that followed the USA-El Salvador game.

The win sets up a rubber match for the Catrachos against the USA. They split two games earlier this year in World Cup 2014 qualifying.

The four Gold Cup semifinalists two years ago return to the final four, which will be played Wednesday. Two years ago, it was the USA over Panama and Mexico over Honduras in Houston. This time the pairings will be the USA-Honduras and Mexico-Panama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Najar, who scored on a header in the 48th minute to knock off Costa Rica, started and played well in the 1-0 Honduras loss to the USA last month in Sandy, Utah, and has come into his own as a member of the Honduran national team this year.

His coach, Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez, credited the 20-year-old Najar's move in January to Belgian champion Anderlecht, where he has been playing for its U-21 team, as having made him a stronger player.

“Playing in Belgium with a youth team, without his family and being alone, it’s helped him a lot,” said Suarez. “That’s been obvious, not only in soccer, but in all other situations that present themselves while he is with the team. He is an introverted person but now he talks a lot more with the team."


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