The days when coach Peter Nowak was constantly distracted by pesky questions about 14-year-old Freddy Adu are long over.
Nowak has moved on from D.C. United and now coaches the U.S. men’s Olympic soccer team. Adu is no longer saddled with the high expectations of being the “New Pele” or “Savior of American Soccer” and is carving out a career in Europe.
A date at the Beijing Olympics has reunited the no-nonsense Polish coach and the teen prodigy from Potomac. Nowak named Adu to the Olympic team’s 18-man roster Thursday.
“We all know Freddy has matured in a very good way and is making steps going forward,” Nowak said. “Our relationship hasn’t changed much since the days we worked together in D.C. He did most of the work by himself. He progressed with our team, and you can see his progress in the senior team games.”
Nowak sometimes had a testy relationship with Adu with United and once suspended him from a 2005 playoff game after Adu complained about playing time to the media.
“We knew from the beginning that being young and impatient makes you a bigger picture on the page, and you don’t see every possible angle,” Nowak said.
Now the 44-year-old coach considers Adu a key player as the U.S. team attempts to earn its first Olympic medal.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work with him,” said Nowak, who is also an assistant coach on the U.S. senior team. “We spent six weeks on the senior team together, so we had a lot of conversations, and I am pleased with his progress.”
Adu played three seasons for United, scoring 11 goals in 87 games, and is now with Portuguese club Benfica.
The United States is drawn into a difficult group in China. It has games against Japan (Aug. 7) and the Netherlands (Aug. 10) - both in Tianjin - and a final Group B game against 1996 gold medalist Nigeria (Aug. 10) in Beijing.
In order not to clash with soccer’s World Cup, the men’s Olympic event is an under-23 tournament. Each team is allowed three overage players on its roster. Nowak named Brian McBride, Brad Guzan and Michael Parkhurst as his exceptions.
The choice of McBride is a surprise. The 36-year-old retired from international games after the 2006 World Cup and in May left Fulham of the English Premier League. Guzan signed with Aston Villa of the EPL last week. Parkhurst is an All-Star defender from the New England Revolution.
Brazil named icon Ronaldinho as one of its overage players.
The Americans begin training Sunday in Palo Alto, Calif., before departing July 24 for warmup games in Hong Kong against the Olympic teams of Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
The United States’ best Olympic performance came at Sydney in 2000, when the team reached the medal round. The Americans failed to qualify for Athens in 2004.