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Shot Of A Lifetime, At 16

Adu, already a Major League Soccer champion, is a longshot for the U.S. World Cup team, but he's chasing his dream at a six-week camp

January 07, 2006|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

These days, hope powers the spring in Freddy Adu's step.

That's how it is when you're 16, you've already won a Major League Soccer championship, you're involved in your first full U.S. national team camp and when you hope -- oh, how you hope -- to make the World Cup roster.

Adu was beaming his trademark smile the other morning at the Home Depot Center. The sun was shining and all was well with his world.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," he said. "I finally got that shot."

It has been a couple of months since U.S. Coach Bruce Arena notified Adu that he was being called up for the six-week camp that opened at the Home Depot Center this week. Adu still savors the moment.

"I actually saved that e-mail," he said. "I was so happy. I was more happy than surprised. It was so exciting for me. It was a dream come true, and I just want to make the most of it."

Adu, who won an MLS title with D.C. United as a rookie in 2004, is a longshot to make the 23-man U.S. roster for Germany, but the World Cup is in June and a lot can happen between now and then.

"I'm going to try to do whatever I have to do to make this team," Adu said. "Because that's been my goal all along. I finally get a chance to achieve that. There's no holding back now."

Arena is cautious about Adu's prospects.

Asked what the youngster would have to do to make the roster, Arena said, "He'd have to show that he's one of our better players. Our expectations for Freddy are not great. I think it's just good to get him in here and give him a feel for what this is about with the national team and to see where he is and compare him with others.

"We're very patient with him. We think for a player his age and the amount of experience he has, he's doing rather well. But our expectations aren't as great as others. I think we need to be patient."

The unspoken message is that Adu should be looking at South Africa in 2010 rather than at Germany this summer, but try telling him that.

"There's probably, I don't know, realistically maybe two or three spots left on the team," he said. "But whatever it is, I'm going to do whatever I can do to try to make it.

"You just never say never. You never know what might happen. They might take you for a different reason other than for being out there scoring goals or whatnot. They might even take you for being a good teammate. You just never know."

If he chose to do so, Adu could make it to the World Cup simply by turning his back on the U.S.

Ghana, in the same first-round group as the U.S., Italy and the Czech Republic, has said that it would like Ghana-born Adu to play for it in Germany.

"We have decided to contact Adu to ask him to decide whether he would like to play for Ghana or the United States," Ghana's Serbian coach, Ratomir Dujkovic, told BBC Sport in December.

"In the coming days, he will be contacted by the football association. I believe that if he has sentiment for Ghana, he will play for the Black Stars. And playing at the World Cup would be a big opportunity for him to show the rest of the world, not just America, that he is a great footballer."

Adu says, however, that he has not heard from Ghana's soccer federation and, in any case, is not interested.

"I didn't personally get a formal approach from Ghana," he said. "It's just stuff that I read, I guess, in the papers. I was just concentrating on being here. That's always been my goal all along -- to be on the U.S. national team."

Adu survived a rough second season in MLS when he and D.C. United Coach Peter Nowak seldom saw eye to eye on the playing time the teenager should get.

At one point, during the playoffs, Adu was benched for speaking out about it and for suggesting that he might leave MLS for Europe.

After subsequent clear-the-air meetings, Adu said that relations with D.C. United had been repaired.

"That's the team I want to play for," he said. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I love the guys on the team. I wouldn't want to leave them for anywhere else.... As long as I'm in MLS, D.C.'s where I want to be. I'm glad I'm going back there. I'm glad everything's resolved. I can't wait for next season."

Arena, meanwhile, has told Adu to focus on the present.

"He just told me to concentrate on playing," Adu said. "He said there are going to be some days when it's going to be tougher than others. You're going to have bad days and good days. All you can do is just concentrate on playing and don't worry about anything else and you should be OK."

The U.S. has matches scheduled against Canada, Norway and Japan in the coming weeks and Adu hopes to play in one or more of those.

"Hopefully, I make a good impression and get to suit up for the U.S. in one of these friendly games coming up," he said. "That would be great."

And if, by chance, he beats the odds, makes the U.S. roster and is in Nuremberg on June 22 when the U.S. plays Ghana in the World Cup?

"If I make it there, that would be a dream come true," he said. "That would be awesome, man. I would really want to be on the field for that."

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