So Far, Adu Is Left Wanting for Minutes

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Early in the second half Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium, Freddy Adu popped off the D.C. United bench to begin warming up and preparing for entry into the scoreless match against the Kansas City Wizards.

A few minutes passed, and then a few more. Other reserves joined him behind the goal to stretch. Adu kept waiting for the signal from the bench. Finally, with only about 13 minutes remaining, he was summoned by Coach Peter Nowak to replace Christian Gomez.

Adu struggled to get involved in the lifeless game, and when a golden scoring chance emerged in the final moments, he couldn't put it past the Kansas City goalkeeper, thus ending another frustrating afternoon for United's 15-year-old forward-midfielder.

Asked if he was surprised he didn't enter the game earlier, Adu said: "You'd have to ask Peter. I can't answer that. It's up to the coach. I felt like I was warming up forever. But whatever is asked of you, you've got to do it for the team and you have to respect the coach's decisions."

It has been a quiet early season for Adu, who has made just one start in five matches, played 191 minutes (13 teammates have played more) and hasn't scored a goal. In the Champions' Cup, an international tournament in which United advanced to the semifinals, Adu started one game, didn't play in another and was a second-half substitute in the last two matches.

He has tried to stay positive and say the right things publicly, but it's clear from his demeanor that he is disappointed in his lack of playing time.

With two attacking players out with injuries Saturday, it seemed to be an ideal time for Adu to start. Instead, forward Santino Quaranta and rookie defensive midfielder Clyde Simms were chosen.

Nowak, who successfully integrated Adu into the playing rotation during his wildly anticipated rookie season last year, when United won its fourth MLS title, said he is pleased with Adu's progress. Yet he isn't ready to make him a regular starter.

"It's been a pretty good couple weeks," Nowak said. "We need to be patient. He's doing better, but defensively and the whole package that we want to create with him, it's not there. In time, in time. Is he supposed to be a starter? I don't think so.

"He starts to understand his role on this team. You cannot say, 'I want to be a starter.' I say, 'I want to be the coach of Real Madrid.' So what? This is the reality and you've got to live with that."

United President Kevin Payne has fully supported his coach's handling of Adu.

"Freddy has to earn his way onto the field, just as everybody else does every week," he said. "It really is a pretty democratic process -- if you play well enough and consistently enough in training, you're going to get on the field.

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