- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

Freddy Adu came of age last night as a pro soccer player.

D.C. United coach Peter Nowak gave Adu, Major League Soccer’s highest-paid player, his second start of the season in six games, and the 15-year-old did not fail his boss.

Playing in a free midfielder role behind United’s two forwards, Adu scored a stunning goal and earned two key assists as United downed the Columbus Crew 3-1 before 14,894 at RFK Stadium. This was clearly Adu’s best game ever for his club, and the victory ended United’s four-game winless streak.

“This is my best performance in pro football, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” said Adu, who was disappointed at playing just 17 minutes off the bench in United’s drab scoreless tie at the Kansas City Wizards last week. “I’ll admit I haven’t been the happiest guy [with the lack of playing time], but I didn’t complain about it. I feel like this was my one opportunity to prove to my coach and teammates I belong out there.”

Adu made 14 starts in 33 games in his first season, managing five goals and three assists. But after last night’s effort against the Crew (2-4), MLS’s most visible player might have sealed a long-term starting role.

“The most important thing is he has started to believe in himself,” Nowak said. “I can see it in his eyes and I can see it in his play, and I need 28 guys like that, so it was a very good start for him.”

United (2-2-2) had a terrific start, scoring two goals in the first nine minutes.

At first it looked like the home team had blown a perfect offensive attack when defender Brandon Prideaux, of all people, found himself alone on a counterattack. Prideaux, who has never scored a goal in his seven-year MLS career, awkwardly rounded goalie Jon Busch only to get off a weak shot that was saved off the line by Crew defender Chad Marshall.

But the danger wasn’t over for the Crew. Within seconds, Adu beat a defender just inside the 18-yard box and sent a low cross to veteran Jaime Moreno, who just needed to poke the ball into the goal. It was Moreno’s third of the season and his first aside from penalty kicks.

Four minutes later United made it 2-0. Adu, whose excellent passing was causing all sorts of problems for the Crew, sent Ben Olsen free on the right flank with a delicate touch. Olsen played a perfect cross into the Columbus box. Midfielder Joshua Gros, positioned about 13 yards from the goal, struck the ball with a powerful diving header that left Busch without hope of saving it.

Sensing a breakdown in United’s midfield after the break, Nowak sent in defensive midfielder Brian Carroll to replace forward Alecko Eskandarian in the 68th minute. The move came a little late as the Crew got a goal back seconds later by former Maryland star Domenic Mediate, who was making his first MLS start.

But Adu kept United safe by scoring a stunning goal three minutes later. Collecting a pass from Olsen, Adu dribbled the ball across the Crew’s box and after shaking off a defender fired home a low shot from six yards out to make it 3-1.

The Potomac teenager nearly got his second goal with five minutes left when his 19-yard blast came off the Crew’s right post.

Notes — United defender Bryan Namoff played his first game after recovering from a broken rib when he replaced Olsen with 11 minutes left. Midfielder Dema Kovalenko, back from a broken foot, replaced Gros in the 90th minute. Clyde Simms started in place of Carroll as United’s defensive midfielder. … United’s next game is Saturday at New England.

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