Emilia Adu couldn't have been prouder of her son Freddy's sensational goal for D.C. United on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. But what will truly fill her heart with maternal joy will be watching her eldest boy's performance today in Bradenton, Fla.
Twelve days before his 15th birthday, United's precocious forward will receive his high school diploma.
"He's done a good job," Emilia said. "He's my guy. It was hard for him, but he did it."
The Potomac-based Adu family -- Freddy, Emilia, Freddy's uncle Tony and Freddy's brother Fro -- flew to Florida yesterday for today's ceremonies. From there, Freddy will get on a plane and rejoin his teammates in Denver for Saturday night's match against the Colorado Rapids at Invesco Field.
"I worked hard for a long time to reach that stage in my life," Freddy said. "I'm just going to enjoy it because I earned it."
As part of the U.S. Soccer Federation's residency program, young players from all over the country train with the under-17 national team and attend private school in Bradenton. Because of his promising soccer career, Adu was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to complete his courses this past March before joining United on a full-time basis.
His mother was adamant about him finishing his schoolwork before embarking on his MLS journey.
When the work was difficult, "I told him, 'You promised me,' " Emilia said, smiling. "He said to me, 'Mummy, I'll make it,' and he made it."
Freddy's graduation comes two days after the biggest moment of his rookie season, a graceful run culminating with a stunning goal in the 67th minute that cut United's deficit to 4-2 against the Los Angeles Galaxy. D.C. didn't get any closer and saw its record fall to 2-3-3, but Adu's goal showed why the team and the league are so excited about him.
On the play, Adu collected Earnie Stewart's pinpoint pass in stride on the right side, got the ball onto his stronger left foot and raced away from Marcelo Saragosa to get into the penalty area. He went at the Galaxy's Hong Myung Bo before cutting to his left. Los Angeles midfielder Sasha Victorine approached from behind, but Adu touched it away from him and then steered into open space to avoid defender Ryan Suarez's right-footed stab. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman had no chance of stopping the rising 15-yard shot.
"It was a good goal, but when you give him that kind of space, you hope he would score it," Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid said. "We gave him a lot of space as he came across the middle. We were off of him. I think after that goal, you saw [Victorine] take the responsibility of marking him and following him, and then after that, Freddy was less involved in the game. . . .
"Obviously on that goal we lost him, and Freddy did a great job. He's got the ability to finish that off. If you give good players time and space, they show you how good they are."
U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena was a guest in Comcast SportsNet's broadcast booth at the time of the strike. "What a great goal," he said.
Adu had been saying all week that he was having more fun now than the first few weeks of the season, when he was under intense scrutiny off the field and having trouble fitting in on the field. After a pair of uneventful starts, he returned to a reserve role and looked much more comfortable the last two matches.
United Coach Peter Nowak won't discuss his lineup for Saturday's game, but with several attacking options, he will likely decide to save Adu for the second half again.
Wednesday's goal "boosts my confidence a lot, it really does," Adu said. "Guys better watch out now because I'm back to my old me."