Ehm, mit 13 inner U17, ok so gehyped mit 13 ist schon krass. Aber hab Tor gesehen, der dribbelt schon recht genial. Und der Knaller, bei CM isser drin mit 13 Jahren, gekauft und spielt FC Amateure als StammEVEN BEFORE THE 12-year-old led his Maryland team to a national youth championship in 2001, tales of Freddy had intrigued John Ellinger, coach of America’s Under-17 squad. So he invited the youngster for a weekend tourney to showcase his talents amid the older lads. Still, the coach wasn’t remotely prepared for such a dazzling performance. On one play, running at full speed, the kid fielded a pass on the outside of his left foot, flicked it up and over his head—and over the defender—and corralled the ball without breaking stride. “I couldn’t believe my eyes... and then he goes and does it again, this time with the other foot,” says Ellinger. “When I asked him, ‘Do you realize the things you’re doing out there?’ he shook his head. All I could think was, ‘Good Lord, son’.”
The kid with the magic feet could be the face of America’s soccer future. Now 13, he is the youngest member—by two years—of that U-17 team, which trains year-round in Bradenton, Fla. Adu has been leaving opponents breathless and coaches speechless since arriving in this country, at 8, from Ghana. U.S. soccer brass fret about the pressure of high expectations, but they can’t contain their glee over the young scoring marvel. He’s blessed with breakneck speed, amazing acceleration, the field vision of an NFL quarterback and deceptive strength for a 5-foot-7, 140-pounder. And he possesses that critical ability to keep the ball on his foot, even under intense pressure, as if it were dangling from a string. “I see him do things I haven’t seen the pros do,” says Ellinger.
For his part, Adu says, he tries not “to get caught up in all that stuff. I just want to go out, play my game and have fun.” Still, he confesses, flashing the megawatt smile that seldom departs his face, “sometimes I even amaze myself.” In truth, he’s amazed to be playing soccer here at all. When he left Ghana—his mother won an immigration lottery—all his friends warned that they didn’t play his game, or at least not very well, in America. “They told me it would be so boring here.” Instead, Adu says he’s awed by the collection of young talent surrounding him. “Everyone is so good that I’m not forced to try to do everything on my own,” says Adu, who, with his new mates, has scored 19 goals in 30 games against pro, college and club teams as well as other nations’ youth squads.
Adu is bursting on the scene at an auspicious time for American soccer. While this country has been developing solid, if largely prosaic, teams for years now, only recently has it begun producing attacking players with the flair that is the hallmark of the world’s greatest soccer nations. This past summer a pair of flashy 20-year-olds, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, helped the United States to a quarterfinal berth at the World Cup, its best showing since 1930. Now Adu looms as potentially America’s first breakout international star—and a future mainstay of U.S. Olympic and World Cup teams. He is in an accelerated program to graduate from high school at 15, when he will likely become the youngest player in Major League Soccer history.
Adu has more immediate goals, though. In 1999, Donovan and Beasley led the U-17s to a surprise fourth-place finish in the World Youth Championships, and Adu thinks the current U-17 edition can do even better this coming summer in Finland. To compete, he must first obtain U.S. citizenship, which he expects to do early in the new year. “I can’t wait to put on this country’s uniform for real,” he says. “I feel like I’m an American kid now.”
Nur scheisse, dat die Amis so einen haben und nit wir.