- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

Freddy Adu probably didn’t gain any new admirers at the recent Under-20 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands.

It was a disappointing trip for the talented 16-year-old. This was Adu’s first appearance on the international stage since signing as a professional with D.C. United when he was just 14.

The pressure weighed heavily on Adu in Europe, where after so much hype in America, all eyes were watching his every move. He was the veteran on the under-20 team but still the youngest member.

Adu may have tried too hard to impress the crowd rather than playing the basics. The Potomac resident had moments of spontaneity but seemed sluggish and often spent too much time on the ball when a simple pass would suffice.

Adu did earn two penalty kicks from clever runs into the box, but he mostly will be remembered for missing them. It’s tough enough to score goals at the international level, but when you miss twice from the 12-yard spot, it will haunt you.

Adu never found his stride or looked comfortable in the four games the Americans played. In a 1-0 win over Argentina he made a few good runs. But then he faded in the sloppy scoreless game against Germany. He came off the bench against Egypt, and his deflected shot led to the U.S. team’s game-winner. But in a 3-1 loss to Italy, the missed penalty shot seemed to knock him off balance, and he disappeared on the left flank.

“It is a huge disappointment,” Adu told the media. “The worst tournament I ever played, personally.”

With the mediocre performance in Holland, Adu has yet to make his mark in the game. England’s Wayne Rooney was scoring stunning goals against Arsenal in the Premier League when he was 16.

One veteran Dutch soccer agent reportedly told London’s Daily Mail, “We have three or four in Holland of that age better than [Adu].”

Said American coach Sigi Schmid: “He needs to step up to the physical nature of the game.”

While Adu was away in Holland, D.C. United played three of its better games of the season, including a scoreless tie at the MetroStars involving a record 28 shots followed by decisive wins over the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution. With attacking players Jaime Moreno, Christian Gomez and Santino Quaranta scoring goals and Dema Kovalenko running his heart out in the midfield, it will be hard for coach Peter Nowak to start Adu.

“Right now I need a lot of work,” said Adu, who will be back training with the team Monday after taking a needed break. “I’ve got to go back, work and hopefully do real well with D.C. United and get my confidence back up.”

Don’t count Freddy out. He will be back, and he will impress.

Ben in the mix — D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen has been called into Bruce Arena’s 24-man U.S. team for the 12-team CONCACAF Gold Cup, which runs from July 6 to 24. The U.S. team plays Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba in Group B play.

The games against Cuba (July 7) and Canada (July 9) are at Seattle and the Costa Rica game (July 12) at Foxboro, Mass. In Group A, guest Colombia will join Honduras, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. In Group C, champion Mexico plays Guatemala, Jamaica and guest South Africa.

Olsen will join the U.S. team tomorrow in Portland, Ore. Clyde Simms likely will replace Olsen in United’s starting lineup.

United off — D.C. United is off this weekend and next plays at the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. Unbeaten in its last three games and finally scoring goals, United is looking a lot like the team that won the title last season.

“We are in a good position,” midfielder Olsen said. “Our goal is to peak towards the end again, and we are on the path.”

Meanwhile, United has been invited to the Copa Sudaamericana, a second-tier tournament similar to Europe’s UEFA Cup involving the top clubs from the nations of South America. United has presented the organizers dates on which it could play. If the dates are accepted, United likely will play a team from Chile or Peru in the round of 16 in home and away games beginning in September.

Women in action — The U.S. women’s national team will play its first domestic game of the year tomorrow against Canada at the Virginia Beach SportsPlex, and it will be televised live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. It will also be the first game on American soil since the retirement of legends Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm. If recently recalled Tiffeny Milbrett, 32, plays against Canada, she will be the fourth U.S. woman to play 200 times for her country. If she scores, she will join just five other players in the 100-goal club.

Glazer fallout — More than 2,600 disgruntled Manchester United fans who refuse to accept American billionaire Malcolm Glazer as the club’s owner have broken away to form FC United. The team will play in the minor league Conference North and share a venue with a capacity of 3,500.

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