Adu-ing just fine

May 17, 2004, midnight | By Dan Greene | 17 years, 1 month ago

Every teenager has pressure on them: it could be the heavy workload, maybe a job after school or sports in your precious free time. But there's this one kid I know, maybe you know him too, who has people counting on him like no other. It must be a lot of stress for this guy, name of Freddy I believe, to have the future of an entire professional league, maybe even a sport's future in America, riding on his 14 year-old shoulders.

But fortunately for the MLS, American soccer and young Mr. Freddy Adu himself, he seems to be handling the stress of soccer, spectators, and speculation remarkably well. The young phenom, who the nine year-old MLS has wagered a $500,000 annual salary on, has most certainly come to play. Adu has arrived as a professional soccer player, and it looks like, even after the unprecedented hype, that he is the Real Deal.

In the second half of the April 3 opening game at RFK, Adu walked onto the turf, to the roar of the crowd's approval, as the youngest player for an American professional sports team in over a century. The crowd certainly recognized Freddy, but the only special treatment he received from the visiting San Jose Earthquakes was a little extra shove here and there. A sign, I believe, of Adu's true success promise.

The fact that a 14 year-old, no matter how god-like his play is supposed to be, is being treated as an equal and as a genuine threat by skilled professionals, some more than twice his age, is astounding. That Adu can respond in kind is incredible. The kid moves with a skill that by all rights shouldn't belong to a teeny-bopper, and his ball control has been compared to that of soccer's most hallowed name: Pele.

But a twenty-some minute appearance towards the end of a game that was won not by Adu, but by Bolivian veteran Jaime Moreno, was not enough to convince the skeptics, myself included. But the boy wonder kept acting like he belonged up here, where an average of around 25,000 show up at every D.C. United game in the hopes of seeing him play and another 290,000 tune in from their couches.

And then the soccer god looked down on Adu from on high and said, "Let there be goal," and there was, and it was good. Alright fine, it was during a 3-2 loss to the MetroStars, but Adu's first professional goal was still a sight to see. In an otherwise lackluster second half, Adu provided a bright spark, and hope for D.C. United's future.

In case I hadn't stressed it enough before, this kid is 14. I mean, don't get me wrong, that A+ on your geometry quiz is pretty swell, but how many goals have you scored in a professional soccer league lately? This was no fluke goal; it was a well-executed play that resulted in a skillful shot that found a nice home in the back of the net.

But even more than the goal, the biggest sign of Adu holding his own with the big kids is a slightly less glorious, but just as important, milestone in his career: little Freddy's first yellow card. Every other player on the field knows that Adu is United's hope for the future, take him out and you take the wind out of United's sails in a serious way. They will try to take him down at every available opportunity and, with a frame like Freddy's, it would be frighteningly easy to do.

So, it was almost a relief that, in an April 25 loss to the Chicago Fire, Adu got called for his first yellow, even if it was only for grabbing Andy Williams's jersey from behind. It shows that he will fight back, that Adu is more than willing to go toe to toe with whatever the rest of the soccer world has to offer, something he will have to do with increasing frequency as a member of the U.S. under-20 national team.

Maybe it won't last. Maybe this summer, or five summers from now, the Freddy phenomenon will slow down. Maybe he'll stop scoring goals (don't worry, he'll start pumping `em out soon), or get injured or just fade off of the soccer map. But right now, Adu is getting better every day and consistently showing his worth, that he can tangle with the big boys and come out on top. Right now, Freddy has shown that he is every bit the soccer savior that MLS, D.C. United, and soccer fans across America want him to be.

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Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »

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