The press office of the U.S. Soccer Federation has been inundated with interview requests for Freddy Adu, who has already been featured in Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and major newspapers across the country.
Jim Moorhouse, U.S. Soccer director of communications, is feeling the pressure. He's charged with accommodating the media and popularizing American soccer players. ''But Freddy's only 13,'' says Moorhouse. ''Landon Donovan didn't get this kind of attention when he was with the U-17s.''
The inclination is to protect someone so young. To shield him from the hype. To let him be a boy.
Born in Ghana, Adu arrived in the United States in 1997 and became a U.S. citizen in February. When he was 11, Inter Milan offered $750,000 for Adu to commit in 2008. His mother turned it down.
At 12, he moved from Maryland to Bradenton, Fla., to join the U.S. U-17s' residency program, which has a good record of preparing boys for pro life.
In March, he helped the United States qualify for the U-17 World Cup. Although hesitant to bestow such a compliment on a 13-year-old, Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner invoked the name ''Pele'' after seeing one of Adu's goal.
Adu wants to turn pro, but MLS declared this season too early. When will the time be right?
Pele debuted for Santos at 15, joined the national team at 16 and won a World Cup at 17. Diego Maradona made his top-flight debut for Argentinos Juniors 10 days shy of his 16th birthday. This season, the English Premier League has seen two 16-year-olds, Wayne Rooney and James Milner, make impressive debuts.
Adu turns 15 early during the 2004 MLS season. The league has done well with its teen players, caring for them in a manner that one wouldn't expect from foreign clubs, which tend to show far less patience.
Indeed, one feels we must be patient about Adu. But once you see him play, you too will be very eager to see him on MLS fields.
by Soccer America Executive Editor Mike Woitalla