Freddy Adu

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Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu (born June 2, 1989) is a Ghanaian native who has gained fame for his prodigious soccer talents. At the age of 14, he signed a professional contract with the D.C. United Major League Soccer (MLS) soccer team on November 18, 2003. Adu left Ghana with his family in 1997, and is now a resident of Potomac, Maryland in the United States and a U.S. citizen. Adu learned to kick a ball at the age of two; soon after he was hitting rocks and refreshment bottles barefooted like many African soccer stars before him.

At age 13, Adu joined the Bradenton Academy, U.S. Soccers full-time residency program, in January 2002. Some major European teams, including Manchester United, looked into the possiblity of signing Adu but due to employment legislation in Britain that states players cannot join English Premier League teams professionally until they turn 17; before this they are limited to very low paying apprenticeship contracts. Adu's agent opted for a contract in the United States, partially because of the financial situation, but also because joining MLS gave the young player the opportunity to play professional soccer very near to his home in Potomac, Md.

Adu played for the United States in two tournaments in 2003, the World Under-17 Championship in Finland and the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates.

In order to allow Adu to play close to home, MLS assigned him to D.C. United, on November 18, 2003, working a deal with the Dallas Burn who owned the top pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. Dallas was compensated with a player allocation. Having already signed with D.C. United, Adu effectively became the first player selected, in that draft, two months before it officially took place.

On April 3, Adu came on in United's first game of the 2004 season against the San Jose Earthquakes as a second-half substitute, making him the youngest professional sportsman in United States professional sports history since fourteen-year-old Fred Chapman played Major League Baseball in Philadelphia in 1887. On April 17, he scored his first professional goal in the 75th minute of a 3-2 away loss against the MetroStars.

With United, Adu joins the other young soccer signees Bobby Convey (in 2000 at 16 was the youngest player ever signed by MLS and did see action in his first seasons) and Santino Quaranta (in 2001 at 16 years, four months of age, Santino Quaranta became the youngest player drafted by MLS prior to Adu).

In his first season as a professional, Adu showed a great deal of potential, pouted about playing time, and finished the year with five goals and three assists, while playing in all 30 regular season games. Although briefly a starter, Adu was relegated to a substitute when D.C. United acquired central midfielder Christian Gmez midseason, and it was in this role that he appeared in United's MLS Cup victory. He played in three of D.C.'s four playoff games, coming off the bench each time; he tallied one assist in the postseason.

Despite his success, Adu was criticized from a number of different angles in his first season as a professional. Some soccer commentators have suggested that Adu is too young to be playing professionally, and that he needs more time to develop mentally amongst players his own age. Others have suggested that Adu is in fact playing against players his own age, and that his Ghanian birth certificate was doctored; no evidence has been found to support this conclusion, however.

One person who has little doubt about Adu's abilities is United States men's national team coach Bruce Arena. "He's a very graceful athlete," said Arena. "His first touch and his vision are outstanding for a player of his age."

Adu is an admirer of Argentina's Diego Maradona.

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