- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

With a number of key players remaining at home with their domestic clubs, Freddy Adu has emerged as the center of attention in the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates, which kicked off Thursday.

Adu, who signed a six-year deal with Major League Soccer last week, was a late addition to the U.S. team, replacing injured San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Arturo Alvarez on the 20-man roster guided by former D.C. United coach Thomas Rongen. The 14-year-old, who was allocated to United by MLS, is a relative newcomer to Rongen’s under-20 team, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets.

“I think he can provide us with a weapon off the bench,” Rongen said.

The Potomac resident joins United’s other youth stars, Bobby Convey and Santino Quaranta, on the U.S. team

The most famous players not making the trip to the tournament in the desert are English stars Wayne Rooney (Everton), Jermaine Jenas (Newcastle) and Jermaine Pennert (Leeds), German striker Mike Hanke (Schalke) and Argentine forward Carlos Tevez (Boca Juniors). All have been retained by their clubs for domestic games.

Argentina, a four-time winner, is bringing a home-based team with no overseas stars, and three-time champion Brazil has two foreign-based players. The two teams are favored to reach the final on Dec.19.

The Americans take on Paraguay today in Group F before meeting Germany on Tuesday and finishing group play against South Korea on Friday. The U.S. team plays all its opening-round games in the 24-team event in Abu Dhabi.

Group A includes the host UAE, Burkina Faso, Slovakia and Panama. In Group B, Spain, Mali and Uzbekistan will battle Argentina. Slovakia downed the UAE 4-1 in Thursday’s opening game.

Brazil is a clear favorite to win Group C, which also includes the Czech Republic, Canada and Australia. Group D is wide open with Colombia, Japan, England and Egypt, as is Group E with Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Ivory Coast. Slovakia, Burkina Faso and Panama will be making their debuts at the finals.

All three U.S. games will be aired on Galavision (today’s game is at 8:30 a.m.) and can be followed live via the match tracker on ussoccer.com.

The biennial youth tournament, which began in 1977 in Tunisia, often has been a coming out party for a number of star players, drawing scouts from all the big clubs. Argentine ace Diego Maradona led his team to the title when he was 18 in 1979 in Japan.

This year’s event was scheduled for March but was delayed because of the war in Iraq.

The Americans have appeared in eight finals. The best U.S. showing was in 1989, when it finished fourth after losing to Brazil 2-0 in the semifinals.

Local notes — Former Maryland defender Nick Downing was waived by the New England Revolution this week. Downing spent this season on loan to the A-League’s Portland Timbers. …

Germantown’s Bruce Murray and Columbia’s Desmond Armstrong, both of whom starred on the U.S. team at the 1990 World Cup, are eligible to be inducted into the 2004 Soccer Hall of Fame, along with former D.C. United stars Roy Wegerle, John Maessner, Geoff Aunger and Jeff Causey. …

Congratulations to Mia Hamm of the defunct Washington Freedom, who married Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in Santa Barbara, Calif., last Saturday.

Corner kicks — Scotland’s national team is rumored to be planning a tour of America and Canada this summer. … Former Howard University star goalie Shaka Hislop underwent a hernia operation this week and will be out of Portsmouth’s lineup in the English Premier League for two months. …

FIFA has announced the finalists for its World Player of the Year Award. The women’s short list features Mia Hamm (USA), Hanna Ljungberg (Sweden) and Brigit Prinz (Germany). The three men in the running are Thierry Henry (France), Ronaldo (Brazil) and Zinedine Zidane (France). The winners will be announced in Basle, Switzerland, on Dec.15. Prediction: Prinz and Henry will win easily. …

Bloomberg reports that the Women’s World Cup in the U.S. showed an estimated profit of $6million, about triple what it made four years ago. Though the event attracted about half as many fans as the 1999 final, this year’s event made cash because organizers used staff and offices that already were being used for soccer, such as MLS staff. The tournament, won by Germany, drew 366,000, compared with 660,000 in 1999.

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