- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

Freddy Adu is no longer lost. The 15-year-old D.C. United star finally looks at home playing as an attacking central midfielder just behind United’s two strikers. Listed as a forward, Adu has always preferred a midfield role and United coach Peter Nowak seems to agree.

Building on a string of promising performances by the youngster, Nowak decided to start Adu as a central midfielder in Wednesday’s home game against Colorado. United won 3-1, with Adu playing a key role in the most complete game of his young pro career.

Adu was allowed to roam freely in the middle of the field. He drifted to the left flank and sprayed numerous dangerous crosses with his favored left foot and also positioned himself well on the goal he scored.

“It’s all about getting to know the team system,” Adu said. “In the beginning I did look lost out there, I admit it. Right now I’m playing in the position I played with the U-17’s and U-20’s [national teams] and all I have to do is now find the holes.”

Adu will be searching for some of those holes tonight when United (6-8-6) faces New England (5-8-7) at RFK Stadium.

It’s clear Adu is not a “box-forward” who plays with his back to the goal. He prefers to hover just outside the 18-yard line with a wide vision of his opponent’s area.

“When he faces the game he is more effective,” Colorado coach Tim Hankinson said.

Adu’s contribution to United in the future will not necessarily be recorded entirely on the stat sheet. His runs off the ball will be invaluable, drawing defenders to create open spaces for teammates.

“Early in the season he was just getting overloaded with information from the coach and everyone, including me,” United midfielder Earnie Stewart said. “What has impressed me is his work rate when we don’t have the ball.”

Adu’s sudden learning curve has injected some needed spark into United’s injury-plagued season. His fellow players are discovering there is substance to all the hype over the wonder boy.

“They trust me a lot more now with the ball,” Adu said. “I’m not getting pushed off the ball and losing it.”

It’s too soon to say if Adu’s new role in the midfield will translate into United making a decent playoff run. The club is also on the verge of signing a high profile midfielder who could put Adu back on the bench.

Meantime, Adu’s clever tricks and nifty steps over the ball, which send defenders back-peddling, beg comparisons to Manchester United midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo. Like Ronaldo, Adu is a natural performer and a fan favorite. After all, this is the entertainment business.

Game notes — The Revolution arrive with new confidence after a 3-0 defeat of Dallas. The club is on a six-game unbeaten streak, with forwards Pat Noonan (eight goals) and former Maryland star Taylor Twellman (four goals) finding their scoring touch.

With just five home games left, it’s vital United earns a win tonight because the club has the worst road-record (1-6-3) in MLS.

World Cup — The U.S. national team gets into serious World Cup qualifying Wednesday when it visits Jamaica (7p.m., ESPN2) for the first match in the semifinal round. Coach Bruce Arena is expected to announce his squad tomorrow in Miami, and United midfielder Earnie Stewart appears likely to get a call up.

Roundup — As it prepares to move into a new 20,000-seat stadium in Frisco, Texas, for the 2005 season, Dallas changed its name this week from the Burn to FC Dallas. … Mexican team Club America is rumored to be poised to take over the San Jose Earthquakes and move the team to Houston in 2005. … Adu signed a deal with Grandstand Sports and Memorabilia yesterday, becoming the youngest athlete to complete a private autographed memorabilia collection deal. … Liverpool star Michael Owen, 24, has been signed by Spanish giant Real Madrid.

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