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Soccer / DAILY REPORT

Adu, 14, Signs Deal With MLS

November 19, 2003|Jim Barrero | Times Staff Writer

Freddy Adu and his family won an immigration lottery in Ghana when he was 8, allowing them to come to the United States.

On Tuesday, Major League Soccer won a lottery of its own when it signed the 14-year-old Adu, a prodigy who had been sought by clubs all over the world, to a six-year contract beginning next season.

The teenager from Potomac, Md., who became a U.S. citizen in February, is set to play for the hometown D.C. United, a major condition of the deal. A formal announcement will be made today at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"This has been a long time coming ... and certainly from a credibility standpoint this is huge," said former U.S. national team star and Galaxy radio and television analyst Rick Davis, who began his professional career with the New York Cosmos at 18 in 1977. "There's no doubt he can have an immediate impact."

Adu is expected to become the youngest player for a U.S. professional top-level team in more than 100 years -- since 14-year-old Fred Chapman played for Philadelphia of baseball's American Assn. in 1887.

Adu, who led the U.S. to the quarterfinals at the FIFA under-17 World Championship in August in Finland, spurned offers by teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and Inter Milan to stay home.

"He is widely considered the best young soccer player in the world," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "And we believe that playing in his home country, in MLS, will further develop him as a player and, most importantly, as a person."

Adu has been in residency camp with U.S. youth teams in Bradenton, Fla., since he was 13. He is expected to graduate from high school next May, a month before turning 15 and a month after the MLS season begins.

"I grew up watching MLS, and I look forward to the challenge," Adu said. "This league will help me develop as a player, and I hope I can leave my mark as soon as possible."

Adu already has done that at the youth level.

At 5 feet 8, he is a goal scorer who combines speed and ball skill the equal of many pros. Adu, who has trained with D.C. United on occasion, began playing for the U.S. under-17 team last year, scoring 22 goals in 2002 and a team-leading 29 goals in 46 games this year.

In May, Nike signed Adu to a $1-million endorsement contract.

World Cup Qualifying

Jose Manuel Rey scored in the 90th minute and Juan Arango scored in extra time two minutes later as host Venezuela continued its surprising World Cup qualifying run with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Bolivia at Maracaibo.

Venezuela, long considered the doormat of South American soccer, is now 2-2.

In another qualifying game, Carlos Paredes scored in the 30th minute, lifting Paraguay to a 1-0 victory over Chile at Santiago.

Paraguay moved into first place in the 10-nation group with nine points, although Brazil would retake the lead with a victory tonight against Uruguay.

Quick Passes

Ryan Giggs of Wales was charged with improper conduct by UEFA for an elbowing incident last week, but European soccer's governing body said the winger could play today in his country's crucial Euro 2004 qualifier against Russia.... Robbie Keane scored two second-half goals and Damien Duff scored an early one to give Ireland a 3-0 victory over Canada in a friendly at Dublin.... Vladimir Manchev scored a goal in the 20th minute to lead Bulgaria to a 1-0 victory over South Korea in a friendly at Seoul.... Ahmed Bilal scored in the 10th minute as host Egypt knocked off Sweden, 1-0, in a friendly at Cairo.... Leeds United midfielder Jody Morris, 24, was arrested at Leeds, England, and charged with raping a 20 year-old woman.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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