- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

D.C. United’s Freddy Adu already is pulling in the fans even though the Major League Soccer season doesn’t kick off until April3.

A packed house of 4,107 filled the University of South Florida’s stadium in Tampa on Thursday to watch the 14-year-old play a full game as United lost to the Kansas City Wizards 1-0 in an exhibition match. According to the Orlando Sentinel Tribune, people were scalping tickets, and university officials said they could have sold 2,000 more. The crowd chanted, “Freddy, Freddy!” and booed when the Potomac resident received some rough tackles.

“I feel like I didn’t play too well,” Adu told the newspaper. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give myself a 5.”

Meanwhile, a report in England yesterday said Premier League team Chelsea had secured an agreement with MLS that gives it first refusal on buying Adu when he turns 18 in 2007.

A Chelsea insider told the Express newspaper, “However much money we end up paying for him, he will be worth it because you will get that back in what you make out of him.”

The London club is owned by Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich, who has spent a stunning $229million on players since July.

Adu has been invited to train with the U.S. under-20 team at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., next week, along with George Weah Jr., son of the Liberian star George Weah. The senior Weah was European and world player of the year in 1995 with Italy’s AC Milan. The younger Weah’s mother, Char, is an American with a home in New York.

United notes — Nine of D.C. United’s games will be televised nationally this season by ABC and ESPN2. ABC will air the club’s MLS opener against San Jose on April3 at RFK Stadium. … Former United midfielder Marco Etcheverry came off the bench in the 77th minute to help preserve Bolivia’s 3-1 lead over defending champion Boca Juniors of Argentina in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday in La Paz, Bolivia. …

Ray Hudson, who coached United for two season until he was fired in December, was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions this week for his years with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Where’s Tiffeny — Notably missing from the U.S. women’s team as it heads into Olympic qualifying games next week in Costa Rica is Tiffeny Milbrett, one of the team’s most consistent goal scorers over the years. The speedy striker has parted ways with coach April Heinrichs, citing “a clash in philosophies about how the game should be coached and played,” according to the Oregonian newspaper.

Milbrett says she felt constrained by Heinrichs’ tactics and wanted a freer role. She has not retired from the international game but is unlikely to return to the American team unless there is a coaching change. Last month she declined to travel with the U.S. team to the Four Nations Cup in China.

“Soccer is a magic game,” Milbrett said. “It’s a players’ game. It’s not a coach’s game.”

The death of her college coach and mentor, Clive Charles, before last year’s World Cup hit Milbrett hard. Her play was disappointing in the World Cup, and she struggled to get into the starting lineup.

Milbrett is the U.S. team’s third leading all-time goal scorer with 99 behind Michelle Akers (105) and Mia Hamm (144). She scored the game-winner in the gold medal victory over China at the 1996 Olympics and was the top U.S. scorer at the 2000 Olympics.

For now, Milbrett is involved in trying to revive the Women’s United Soccer Association and may play in England.

The American women play Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, Haiti on Friday and Mexico on Feb.29 in Group A qualifying games. Group B includes Canada, Panama, Costa Rica and Jamaica. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals, with both semifinal winners advancing to the Olympics in Athens.

Apology, please — The U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association has demanded an apology from the Mexican Federation over the way the U.S. under-20 team was treated at the Olympic qualifying event in Mexico recently.

“The actions of the Mexican fans at issue were a direct attack, not only upon our players and our fans, but on the dignity of all Americans,” the players association said in a statement. “We have endured physical abuse from opposing fans — bags of urine, batteries and other objects have been thrown at us from the stands. … Dismissing it as an outgrowth of a sporting rivalry is insulting.”

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