Move from right wing seems to be working

Andy Najar's teammates have joked about him making a permanent shift to right outside back. D.C. United coach Ben Olsen silently nodded and grinned when asked whether he would consider making the change.

And if Najar's performance against Chicago is any indicator, it will be no laughing matter to opponents if he does.

Moved from his usual starting spot on the right wing to the back line out of necessity for the third time, the 19-year-old had his best match of the year in United's 4-2 victory over the Fire on Wednesday. He ranged up and down the right side, one moment making a surging 50-yard run, the next tying the opposition in knots working out of a tight spot in United's end of the field. He inspired comparisons with a legendary Brazilian who once played in the same spot.

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D.C. United at Impact
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"I'd like to welcome our new player, Cafu, to our team," United defender Brandon McDonald said. "I don't know where his feet came from or how he gets out of the stuff he does. I'm just sitting there in the game like, 'How in the world does this guy do it?' For me playing next to him, it's great because I can sit back there and watch and not have to worry about it coming back down our throats."

Najar turned the Chicago game in United's favor just when the Fire appeared to have salvaged a 1-1 halftime tie on a goal in the 45th minute. On the ensuing kickoff, Najar drove down the right side and momentarily lost the ball trying to cut into the box. But he immediately recovered, spun around and curled a cross to Lionard Pajoy for a header at the back post to put United (12-8-4) back on top.

The ability to generate offense and a refusal to quit defensively is a lethal combination. Overlapping runs and creativity from outside backs are crucial in an age when teams play compactly and efficiently close down most midfield openings.

"He has unique qualities in this league, and I think they lend itself to the modern right back," Olsen said. "You look at soccer now and the outside backs, they have the ball so much they have to be good on it. They have to be dynamic. They have to have great engines, get up and back, and they have to be great defending."

Though he started his D.C. United academy career at right back, Najar still has room for improvement. But he has advocates.

"For a while now [McDonald] has always told me that my natural position should be right back," Najar said via an interpreter, then took a moment to make a joke. "But no one really pays attention to Brandon."

All kidding aside, Najar admitted he may have to reconsider his favorite position. Long expected to punch his ticket to European soccer as a right wing, Najar has stumbled on a way to be more valuable for United right now and more attractive for international suitors in the future.

"Right now based on my performance [against Chicago]," Najar said, "I'd like to keep playing right back."