D.C. United President Kevin Payne yesterday lashed out at Alexi Lalas, the former U.S. soccer star who is now the MetroStars' president and general manager, for comments Lalas made about the possibility of New York/New Jersey acquiring teenager Freddy Adu.

"It's extremely inappropriate," Payne said yesterday. "I'm disappointed. I have a lot of respect for Alexi and a friendship with Alexi, but he crossed the line on this, in my opinion. It's tampering, in any league. It's totally unconstructive.

"I think the MetroStars should be spending more time worrying about the things they can control, which they have not done a good job of controlling over the 10-year history of the league. For them to be criticizing us is sort of an outrageous situation."

In yesterday's New York Times, Lalas was quoted as saying: "The MetroStars would love nothing more than to have Freddy Adu. He would certainly play in New York. It's evident that he loves competition and wants to play, and we are certainly a team that would provide him with time on the field. I would love nothing more than for him to get fed up with D.C.

"Right now, I think the situation is a little like a Bruce Lee movie without a fight. He's got the star power, but there hasn't been the payoff."

Payne said he complained to MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a telephone call and e-mailed his concerns to officials with the MetroStars and the Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the operating rights for both United and the MetroStars.

Sources around MLS who didn't want to be identified said league officials are looking into the matter and likely will end up fining or reprimanding Lalas.

MLS spokesmen in New York didn't return messages seeking comment.

Lalas, a colorful character on the 1994 and '98 World Cup squads who played seven years in MLS, joined the MetroStars' front office last month after serving in a similar capacity for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Lalas is attempting to energize a MetroStars organization that has never appeared in the MLS Cup and has had trouble building a fan base in the soccer-rich New York area. United has won four league titles.

Adu, 16, has played in 11 of United's 15 matches, starting five and contributing one goal and four assists. The four games he missed were while he was with the U.S. under-20 national team at the World Youth Championship in the Netherlands last month.

Adu started Saturday night at Columbus but was replaced at halftime because Coach Peter Nowak said he wanted to improve the defense in central midfield, where Adu was situated. The next day, Adu drew a penalty kick and scored a goal in United's reserve league game in Columbus.

"Freddy is not being traded anywhere -- end of story," Payne said. "Freddy is doing fine. He understands what his role is, he understands when he accomplishes what he's asked to do, he understands when he doesn't. He's 16 years old. Our interest is in making Freddy into the best possible soccer player he can be. Does he always like it? Probably not. Does every other player always like it [when the team places demands upon them]? No."

Adu missed yesterday's practice while traveling home from Los Angeles, where he appeared in a television commercial, and wasn't available to comment. However, at times over the last year, he has expressed frustration about not playing a larger role for defending champion United (6-5-4). Adu is averaging 50 minutes per game.

United Notes: Forward Alecko Eskandarian, who missed the past two games after getting kneed in the head during a June 18 game, has a neck strain and could be suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Nonetheless, he might be available to play Saturday night against Kansas City at RFK Stadium, team trainer Brian Goodstein said. Eskandarian didn't practice yesterday. . . .

Nowak skipped practice to celebrate his 41st birthday with his family at their year-round home in Florida. . . .

Team officials hope English midfielder Steve Guppy (Achilles' tendinitis) will see his first action in 21/2 months Monday, when United plays an exhibition against minor league Rochester (N.Y.) in Cary, N.C. . . .

United's reserve team (5-2-0) defeated Columbus, 4-1, to move into first place. Rookie Matt Nickell had two goals and Adu and guest player Eric Quill also scored.

MetroStars' Alexi Lalas on Freddy Adu: "I would love nothing more than for him to get fed up with D.C."