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D.C. United’s Andy Najar plays against the Columbus Crew during an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

D.C. United lost for the fifth time at home in eight matches last Saturday, falling 3-1 to Nashville. Despite the result, one positive take away was winger Andy Najar playing his first complete game since March 12, D.

C.’s second game of the season.

The former academy graduate missed the last two months with a hamstring injury — the first setback for Najar since returning to the Black and Red last season following seven seasons in Europe and a stint with LAFC.

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After Najar battled multiple injuries for multiple seasons, United took a chance on the Honduran player and signed him to a one-year deal with a team option for two more.

He became one of the surprising revelations of the 2021 season, becoming a regular starter under former head coach Hernan Losada. He started 23 matches, scored once and added three assists.

When asked about his return on Saturday, interim head coach Chad Ashton called Najar “a super dangerous guy,” noting his ability to play several positions defensively and offensively.

“He was out for a significant amount of time, so for him to get through 90 minutes and continue to grow his fitness and hopefully, move towards — knock on wood — not seeing any more injuries,” Ashton said.

toggle audio on and off change volume download audio DC United's Andy Najar explains in Spanish how it feels to play his first complete game in two months.

Against Nashville, Najar floated up and down the right side of the field. While the lineup sheet listed him as a center back, he continued to push the ball forward for D.C., attempting to create attacks using his speed and ball dribbling.

Ten minutes into the game, with United down a goal, Najar received a header pass from Taxi Fountas between two defenders, leaving him alone with goalkeeper Joe Willis.

He whiffed his attempt and fell to the ground as the ball rolled out of bounds.

Najar told WTOP he was fouled on the play.

“I felt the defender slide tackle me from behind,” Najar said in Spanish. “I felt the tackle, and I lost my balance. I had no chance whatsoever to recover the ball. But for me, yes, that was a penalty. However, the call was not made, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Happens to the best of of us ????

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 25, 2022

After the game, Najar spoke to members of the Spanish-speaking press about the result, his return to the pitch and his thoughts on United’s performance so far this season.

Editor’s note: This story was translated, reorganized and edited for clarity.

  • Q: How did it feel to get back on the field following the hamstring injury?
  • “Very good. Thanks to god, I returned back after eight weeks of being out.

    “It hurt watching the results from afar and seeing the team struggle. All I can do is do all the little things right and help when I can. Now, it’s time to get back to training.”

  • Q: What are your overall thoughts on the 3-1 loss against Nashville?
  • “It is sad really. It is a result that we weren’t expecting. Not much to say to be honest.

    “It is not what we expected but this is soccer. Soccer gives us a chance to bounce back so we have to get ready for the next game.”

  • Q: Interim head coach Chad Ashton said you can play multiple positions up front and defensively. For Nashville, what was the strategy for you and your positioning on the field?
  • “Coach always gives me the liberty to play various positions. I am one of the few players on the team that has a free role to go up into the attack.

    “Sometimes, it goes well and other times, it doesn’t. Regardless, we have to keep continue working harder to get better.”

  • Q: How impactful was Nashville's early goal in the first 10 minutes of the first half?
  • “It was a fast goal, an early goal. I think our performance dropped immediately; to start a game like that is not what a team expects.

    “However, those things happen in our sport, so we need to work on that. We need to not lose our concentration and keep fighting because the game is not over in the first 10 minutes. It is [90] minutes. Hopefully, with more effort, we are rewarded in the next game.”

  • Q: As one of the veteran leaders on the team, what do you say to your younger or newer teammates to keep them motivated during this tough stretch of the season?
  • “We just have to focus on the way we did it last year. We have several guys who were here last season and I think we have quality and we have a talented group to do something good like we did last year.

    “Right now, we are missing that little bit of extra desire to play better on the field. Hopefully, little by little, we will be back to our form, and if it is not too late, we are able to complete our goals for this year.”

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Three Cowboys, Including Former All-Pro, Injured in Chippy Practice with Broncos

Getty Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith runs out on the field for an NFL game.

Everything coming out of the Dallas Cowboys August 12 joint practice with the Denver Broncos has been less than ideal, including a new slate of injuries.

Dallas has already been dealing with injuries from earlier in training camp and in the previous season, with wide receivers Michael Gallup and James Washington both set to miss the beginning of the season with issues.

Now, there’s a trio of new problems to address, as defensive tackle John Ridgeway, tight end Ian Bunting and two-time All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith all being injured in some fashion on Thursday.

According to Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Gehlken, Bunting was injured during a punt return rep. Bunting did walk off the field after a medical cart arrived, but it appears to be a neck injury. Fortunately, the results of an x-ray came back negative.

Ridgeway, the fifth-round draft pick out of Arkansas, suffered some for of leg issue during practice as well. Ridgeway did exit the field on his own power.

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The Cowboys’ official writeup confirmed the Tyron Smith issue, stating that the offensive tackle was still being seen by medical staff at the time of writing.

“Tyron Smith also limped off the field towards the end of practice. The Cowboys medical team was still evaluating them all after the practice,” the site reads.

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Cowboys in Tight Spot at Tackle

The injury to Smith is something that the Cowboys don’t want to see and can’t really afford. Rookie tackle Matt Waletzko, who was expected to help in depth and as a swing tackle option, had a shoulder injury earlier in camp and is expected to have surgery, per Gehlken.

If Smith’s injury is serious, the Cowboys essentially have Josh Ball and Tyler Smith as their only options at left tackle. Smith was selected in the first round by Dallas in the 2022 NFL draft, but he has primarily taken reps at guard as the Cowboys work him into the NFL.

Essentially, left tackle is extremely thin, and the tackle group in general is thin. Ball was expected to be a backup for either side this year, but in the current situation he pretty much has to focus at left tackle instead of learning from Terence Steele at RT.

Background on Bunting and Ridgeway

Ridgeway has quickly found a niche following in Dallas, which makes sense. The defensive tackle arrives from owner Jerry Jones’ alma mater, Arkansas, and is nicknamed the “vanilla gorilla” for his strength and playstyle as a defensive tackle.

Ridgeway has had an interesting camp, showing flashes of improvement and quality but also scuffling with his own teammates before the Broncos practice ever happened.

Cowboys training camp has officially gotten chippy. Tussle between LG Connor McGovern and rookie NT John Ridgeway set tone. And it kept going. Coach Mike McCarthy repeatedly shouted at players to get on ball to continue red-zone period.

CB Nahshon Wright ended sequence with PBU.

— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 9, 2022

Meanwhile, Bunting arrived in Dallas last season and is continuing to look for a permanent home. Despite being on rosters and practice squads for five other NFL teams before getting to the Cowboys, he actually made his regular season debut against the Washington Commanders last season.

Bunting getting a negative x-ray result and Ridgeway walking off on his own power are encouraging details. However, both players are looking to secure roster spots and missing time to injury doesn’t help.

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