United's Adu Saves His Best for Last

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 24, 2005

CARSON, Calif., July 23 -- D.C. United was headed for another drab tie on the road Saturday, a passable result given the difficult circumstances. United hadn't created many chances and spent too much time locked in its own end, so to escape with a draw after a long week on the road would have undoubtedly brought some satisfaction.

Then came one of those moments that United, and MLS for that matter, had fantasized about for the last 18 months -- an instant when teenager Freddy Adu had the ball at his nimble feet, space opening in front of him, an opportunity to provide a dramatic finish to a dying match.

Adu made his run, one defender flailed, another couldn't get to him in time. The left-footed shot received some help -- a slight deflection that made a wonderful strike impossible to stop -- but all anyone will remember at sun-drenched Home Depot Center was that a 16-year-old had won a game with a spectacular goal in injury time, giving United a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"When the game goes into extra time and it's tied 0-0 and you're on the road, usually you want to hold the ball, you want to kill time," Adu said. "But the midfield was so open, I couldn't just hold the ball. I had to just try to attack, just like [Coach Peter Nowak] told me to. I did that, and good things happen when you listen to your coach."

Adu had scored five goals during his wildly welcomed rookie season last year, but three had been late-game consolations during one-sided games and the other two had come in the early stages of separate matches. His only previous goal this season was near the end of a comfortable win.

This one, however, gave United (8-6-5) a victory it probably didn't deserve, put a stunning end to the Galaxy's 17-game home unbeaten streak that began 13 months ago, and provided D.C. with four points on the road in the last four days heading into Thursday's exhibition against English champion Chelsea at FedEx Field.

"It wasn't a pretty game," said Jaime Moreno, Adu's striking partner, "but Freddy had a great move and a great goal. . . . His power is going forward, and he did great with that opportunity."

The sequence began with D.C. defender Brandon Prideaux winning the ball with a header in midfield. Adu collected it, burst past Ugo Ihemelu, approached the penalty area, stutter-stepped to his left and ripped a 22-yard shot that grazed off Tyrone Marshall and streaked past diving goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

When he found Adu, Prideaux recalled: "I'm thinking, 'Come on, come on! Beat the guy!' I'm just hoping he could get the shot off or make something happen. He did well to create a little opening and did a great job."

Nowak, his assistants and the reserves bounced off the bench as Adu was swarmed by teammates. "If you get a 90-minute goal, it's always exciting," Nowak said, cracking a smile. "The game is 90 minutes and we just had to believe we could do it."

The Galaxy (8-7-4) had dictated play most of the afternoon, but repeated failures in the final third of the field provided an opening for United and, in particular, Adu. To that point, the teenager, like his teammates, had had an uneventful game.

"I thought we got a little greedy toward the end and started looking for the win," Galaxy Coach Steve Sampson said. "It opened up in the midfield and we got caught very flat and allowed the counterattack and a good finish by Freddy."

Said Adu: "At practice Peter always tells me to put myself in [an attacking] position when we win the ball. Brandon won the ball, I was able to turn and face up, and the rest is history."

United Notes: Rookie defender Bobby Boswell received a yellow card in the 12th minute, pushing him over the limit that mandates a one-game suspension. He'll miss the next league match, Aug. 6 at Chicago, ending his team-best minutes played streak at 1,710. . . . Attendance was announced as a sellout of 27,000, but the actual turnout was closer to 20,000.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company