A flat Freddy still has star power

There was no doubting whom the 4,107 crowd had come to see. They cheered his name. They booed any Kansas player who had the audacity to foul him. They stayed behind clamoring for his autograph. But, by his own admission, they didn’t get to see the real Freddy Adu in D.C. United’s 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards at the USF Soccer Stadium Thursday.

“I felt like I didn’t play too well tonight,” Adu said. “On a scale of 1-10, I’d give myself a 5 right now. I didn’t look like myself; I didn’t feel like myself.”

Adu, who played the full ninety minutes, frequently lost possession and struggled to make an impact. His technical director at United, Dave Casper, said the match was a good preview of what the 14-year-old, whose ability has attracted worldwide attention, can expect when the MLS season gets underway in April.

“It’s the first game for him where he’s got fans chanting his name,” Casper said. “It’s going to take some getting used to, but I thought he showed some very good moments.”

Despite his performance, Adu said the enthusiasm of the fans made his first D.C. United game in front of a crowd memorable.

“I didn’t expect all these people. I had fun even though things didn’t go the way we would have liked it to.”

Peter Nowak, head coach for United and the man charged with handling U.S. soccer’s most precious commodity, said it was important that Adu is allowed to develop naturally.

“He’s got so much passion for this game and so much love; he’s a special guy and a special player,” Nowak said. “If we’re going to tell him what to do and how to do it, it’s going to be a disaster.”

The game, which was a fundraiser for the USF men’s soccer program, was decided in the 53rd minute when the Wizards’ Justin Detter fired the ball past United goalkeeper and former Bull Troy Perkins who replaced Doug Warren at halftime.

Returning to the university where he kept goal for three years, conceding the game-winner was the last thing the former USF goalkeeper wanted.

“The whole time (I was thinking) don’t give up a goal and then boom, but it was a well-taken shot,” Perkins said.

For Perkins, who is expected to put pen to paper on a developmental contract with D.C. next week, playing at his former home stadium added some extra spice to the game.

“I’ve been thinking about it all night; actually, I didn’t sleep well,” he said. “It’s exciting to come back to a place you played for three years and (to) see a crowd like that is unreal. That’s the most people I’ve ever played in front of.”

The match, the result of USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer’s long-time association with Wizards’ assistant coach Brian Bliss, will provide a significant financial boost to Kiefer’s program. Kiefer said the evening had been a huge success but one he could only enjoy once he was sure everything was in place.

“It was a relief when both teams were there and the officials were there and they kicked off. (Seeing Adu for the whole game) added to a more enjoyable evening,” Kiefer said.”