Adu Starts, United Finishes in Win

Freddy Adu
Teammates Ben Olsen and Clyde Simmons congratulate Freddy Adu after he scores to give United a 3-1 lead over Columbus. (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 8, 2005

It wouldn't be fair to the rest of D.C. United's starters to solely attribute the club's blistering start last night to 15-year-old Freddy Adu. The goals were scored by Jaime Moreno and Josh Gros, the inspiration provided by Ben Olsen, the defensive stability offered by Clyde Simms and Mike Petke.

But there's no questioning the sudden impact made by Adu, who, in only his second start of the year, energized the attack and assisted on Moreno's goal in the fifth minute and Gros's diving header four minutes later.

After Columbus cut the deficit in half, Adu applied the finishing touches to United's badly needed 3-1 victory over the Crew with his first goal of the season, a left-footed strike with about 19 minutes remaining before 14,894 at RFK Stadium.

"This was probably my best performance as a pro so far," said Adu, who had become increasingly impatient with his lack of playing time. "It couldn't have come at a better time, where I've been coming off the bench all along, I haven't been the happiest guy on the face of the earth. But I wasn't going to complain about it. You've just got to keep working hard and let your play do the talking. I felt like this was my one opportunity to prove to Peter and my teammates that I belong out there."

From a statistical standpoint, Adu had never been better, registering a career-high four points. But what truly distinguished this performance from all others was his touch on the ball, his confident runs into the heart of Columbus's defense and his contributions away from the ball. He played all 90 minutes -- 77 more than he did in last week's abysmal 0-0 tie at Kansas City -- for just the sixth time in his career.

"He had a very good week of practice and the most important thing is he started to believe in himself," Coach Peter Nowak said. "I can see it in his eyes."

United (2-2-2) won for the first time since the season opener against Chivas USA five weeks ago, ended a six-game overall winless streak (which included a pair of Champions' Cup matches last month) and provided some momentum heading to New England next weekend to face the first-place Revolution (5-0-1).

"We realized we hadn't won in a while and we needed a win badly to get us going," Gros said. "We just came out flying."

In the fifth minute, Alecko Eskandarian sent the ball through to defender Brandon Prideaux, who had made a run past Columbus's back line. Perhaps unaccustomed to having the ball on his foot in the open field, Prideaux meekly touched it past goalkeeper Jon Busch, which allowed Chad Marshall to clear it off the goal line.

However, Adu soon had the ball on the left side, where he stung a cross to Moreno for a simple redirection and the Bolivian forward's third goal of the year.

Four minutes later, Adu delivered a brilliant diagonal pass behind a defender to Olsen charging down the right flank. Olsen lifted a cross to the center of the box, where Gros drilled a diving header into the upper right corner for his second goal of the season.

"I'm really proud of [Adu]. He's been going through a lot," Olsen said. "He's been down and up, but this is a good performance for him. He needed it and we needed it."

Despite the early setback, the Crew (2-4) certainly wasn't out of it. United goalkeeper Nick Rimando was tested three times before Domenic Mediate, a rookie midfielder from Maryland, beat him with a 12-yard volley in the 69th minute.

However, Adu restored the two-goal difference two minutes later, collecting Olsen's long ball on the right, cutting to his left to shake Chris Wingert and then smacking a 10-yard shot just before Busch arrived. The ball struck the base of the left post and zipped over the goal line for his sixth career goal.

Adu nearly got another one in the 85th minute, drilling an 18-yarder off the left post.

"This goes for everybody, not just Freddy, but when you get your chance, you've got to show what you can do," Gros said. "He obviously did that, and then some."

United Notes: Defender Bryan Namoff and midfielder Dema Kovalenko made their first appearances of the year after recovering from long-term injuries.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company