Adu's World Cup Hopes Hinge on Play for United
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Freddy Adu has not given up hope of making the U.S. World Cup squad, but after training under Coach Bruce Arena in California for a month, the 16-year-old forward realizes this much: It is imperative to make a robust impression with his club team, D.C. United, before he has any chance of joining the national team in Germany this summer.
Adu's effort began yesterday, when he participated in his first preseason practice of the year at RFK Stadium's training grounds.
"I've just got to work hard and be a regular starter for D.C.," he said. "The month of April [when the MLS season starts] is very important for me because Bruce said he is going to be monitoring my every move and I'm just going to work hard and keep improving and bringing that to D.C. United.
"If I do that, Bruce is watching, so he might give me that last shot to go in and try to prove something. Hopefully, that's the case."
Adu made his national team debut Jan. 22, entering as a late-game reserve during a 0-0 exhibition tie with Canada in San Diego. He didn't play a week later against Norway, and he and Arena agreed that the most important thing for Adu's development was to begin fighting for a starting job with United instead of staying with the national team for this week's friendly against Japan in San Francisco.
"The route to the national team is through his club team, not being with the national team," Arena said in a telephone interview. "All these guys with the national team are regulars with their club teams. That's the next step for Freddy, which is going to be difficult because D.C. has a lot of talented players."
Adu performed well at U.S. camp, Arena said. He said his play was "about what we expected and he got better as he went along. He's a young kid with a lot of talent, but obviously he needs time to progress. He's got to improve in some areas and he just doesn't have all the answers for everything yet."
United regrouped Jan. 30, but after attending meetings at RFK, Adu was given a week off to rest following his U.S. experience. Adu, however, headed to IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., to work on fitness, flexibility and weight training before reporting back to Washington. United, as a team, will return to Bradenton tomorrow for a two-week training camp.
Adu said U.S. camp was particularly beneficial for his defense, an aspect of his game that has been criticized since he turned pro in 2004. Several times during a scrimmage yesterday, Adu tracked back and challenged the opposition with vigor.
"Now I am able to position myself defensively in the right spots so that if my team wins the ball I am the first guy we find," he said. "If my team doesn't win the ball, I put myself in position to win it."
The person watching Adu the closest is United Coach Peter Nowak, with whom Adu has had a rocky relationship at times.
"I think he already benefits from being with the national team," Nowak said. "I talked to Coach Arena the last few weeks. The reports we have were very positive. He progressed a lot fitness-wise and mentally-wise, and I think also reading the game and knowing what people expect of him."