Adu, 14, Makes Awaited Debut
Chants of “Freddy, Freddy” echoed throughout the stadium Saturday whenever a D.C. United player missed a scoring chance early in the second half.
Finally, in the 61st minute, the moment arrived.
Flashbulbs popped amid the roars as 14-year-old soccer prodigy Freddy Adu entered the game and became the youngest athlete to play in a major American league in more than 100 years.
No one in the stadium sat for the next 10 minutes. People waited for magic that never came. Adu had few quality touches and never took a shot in United’s 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Major League Soccer season opener.
“When I got out there, I just felt I was a step slower than normal,” Adu said. “But that was probably because of the whole atmosphere. I got some playing time. I didn’t get as much as I’d like, but I got it out of the way, and now I’m ready to go. I’m glad it’s over.”
Adu’s debut created interest never before seen in the history of the 9-year-old league. Reporters from Europe and Asia claimed some of the 250 media credentials issued for the match.
“We never expected that it would turn into Freddie-mania,” Commissioner Don Garber said.
All the hoopla might have been a little too much, and that’s why Coach Peter Nowak had Adu on the bench at the start. Nowak said Adu’s performance was “so-so.”
“He was really nervous before they even kicked the first pass,” Nowak said. “I told him to play more in the middle to get more touches and enjoy the game. He did all right. For the first time, he did very well.”
United sold out the game at RFK Stadium’s MLS-downsized capacity of 24,603. The stadium holds 53,000, but United has closed the upper deck this season to create a greater demand for tickets and encourage advance sales.