U.S. U-17 Adu brings goals, cards, European interestPosted: Monday August 18, 2003 12:05 PM
ATLANTA (SI.com) -- The scramble to sign 14-year-old U.S. striker Freddy Adu has officially begun.
The youngest player at FIFA’s Under-17 World Championship in Finland is also the tournament’s top scorer, with four goals in two games after the United States’ 2-1 victory over Sierra Leone on Sunday.
Adu has his sights set on eventually playing in Europe but has not ruled out first joining Major League Soccer, according to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, who says MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis flew to Finland on Saturday to speak face-to-face with Adu's mother, Emelia.
English powerhouse Manchester United has also opened talks to sign Adu, according to a Sunday reported in English newspaper the Guardian.
A FIFA rule limits the ability of players under age 18 to move abroad, but it remains open to interpretation.
Whatever his professional future, Adu may not play against Spain on Wednesday in the final opening-round match for the U.S., which has already advanced to the quarterfinals.
On Sunday, Adu received his second yellow card of the tournament –- this one for diving -- as he was being stretchered off the field in the 84th minute.
“I didn't even know I had a yellow card until after the game when the coaches told me,” he said. “I got hit. It doesn't do anything for the next game though; I'm not going to think about it. It won't take away my intensity at all.”
Five minutes later he scored the winning goal, taking a flicked-on header from Jamie Watson and rounding the goalkeeper.
"He's like, 'Jamie, Jamie, put me in.' When Freddy yells put me in, I'm going to do my best to put it in,” said Watson. “I just flicked it on to Fred and he put it in.”
Ellinger was pleased with his strike tandem of Watson and Adu.
“It's been a big plus for us in the last two months,” he said. “Jamie has not been a regular starter, but in the early part of June we started playing with Freddy underneath of Jamie, and the combination play of those two have really given us a boost.
“If I had to classify Jamie as a player, I'd call him a pest. He'll just work, work and work. He'll create opportunities for us just by the ability to put pressure on.
"We can play any kind of ball into him and he can hold it. He's also good at laying balls off first time. His play has been a tremendous boost for us and playing Freddy underneath has worked wonders for us as of late.”
The U.S. and Spain will play for first place in Group D on Wednesday (1 p.m. ET; Galavision).
While the U.S. is assured to finish either first or second in Group D, it is still too early to know who the team would face. The winner of Group D will take on the second place finisher in Group C, while the second place finisher in Group D will face the winner of Group C. The teams competing in Group C are Brazil, Portugal, Yemen and Cameroon.
Adu would have to sit out a match if he receives another yellow card. He was also visibly slowed on Sunday by the rough treatment he received by Sierra Leone’s defense.
“That's the beauty of Freddy,” Ellinger said. “That's why you leave a Freddy Adu or Landon Donovan in a game because [defenders] can deal with him for 89 minutes, but then it's that one minute, that one moment in a game when they can explode on you. That's why Freddy is in there.”
The U.S. will appeal the yellow card Adu received against Sierra Leone.
“I think the smartest thing to do would be to not use Freddy,” U.S. coach John Ellinger told reporters after Sunday’s game. “If he gets another yellow card he will be out for second-round match. So I think the best thing to do would be to give him a rest.”
Before Adu’s goal, Marfuggi was the star of the match as he kept the U.S. equal with 10 saves.
“Sierra Leone was a handful,” said Ellinger. “I think we did well to get a win against such a strong side.
“They had our backs up against the wall a lot of the time, but we were able to get the strike from Freddy at the end to make the difference. It’s good to know we’ve advanced, but we still have to concentrate on Spain, which will be a tough test.”
Adu was shaken by Sierra Leone’s physical play.
“I learned how tough I can really be,” he said. “Sometimes I get hit all the time and I have to come out of games because it hurts so much and today was brutal. But, we just dug deep and worked through it, and ended up getting the winning goal.”
Throughout most of the match, the U.S. was outgunned by Sierra Leone, which was able to pressure down the flanks to knock in dangerous crosses and also ripped numerous shots from outside the penalty area.
“Sierra Leone is a very dangerous team with great individual players,” said Ellinger. “After watching them play a very good Spain team and tying 3-3 we did not expect an easy match, but we were hoping we would be able to hang in there defensively and then come away with the win. So, obviously we are very happy with the result.”
Sierra Leone controlled most of the possession during the match and ended up taking 25 shots, 12 of which were on goal.
”We didn't play as well as we liked to, but obviously we got the job done and we got the win that we needed,” said Marfuggi. “We're a team of fighters, so we did what we needed to get the result.”
Watson praised the U.S. goalkeeper.
“I don't know if there's words to describe Phil's play in goal,” he said. “Coach [Ellinger] told us we were going to create our own luck at halftime with hard work. I told Phil after the game that he created our luck because if he doesn't come up with those big saves it could have easily been 3-1, 4-1, with 20 minutes left in the game. He definitely kept us in the game.
“It was a tough game and was going back and forth. You can look at the stats and the possession could have said 99 to 1 for Sierra Leone, but we weren't going to stop until the final whistle blew. That's what we said we were going to do at halftime. Any mistake they had we were just going to pounce on them.”
Later Sunday, Spain defeated South Korea 3-2. With a win or tie against Spain on Wednesday the U.S. would win Group D. A loss to Spain would mean a second-place finish.
SLE - Alimamy Sesay (Obi Metzgar) 32nd minute
U.S.–1-Phil Marfuggi; 3-Jonathan Spector, 5-Brandon Owens, 12-Steve Curfman (2-Kyle Helton, 76), 15-Corey Ashe, 17-Daniel Szetela, 8-John DiRaimondo, 10-Guillermo Gonzalez (7-Brian Grazier, 70 ), 4-Eddie Gaven; 13-Jamie Watson, 11-Freddy Adu (16-Adrian Chevannes, 90). Subs not used: 18-Quentin Westberg, 19-Jacob Peterson, 28-Stephen Sandbo, 14-Julian Valentin, 9-Michael Harrington, 6-Chris Germani
SLE-1-Patrick Bantamoi; 2-Daniel Taylor (4-Mohamed Koroma, 33), 3-Umaru Bangura, 5-Hassan Sesay, 6-Mohamed Kamara; 8-Alimamy Sesay, 10-Samuel Barlay, 11-Obi Metzger, 14-Lansana Bayouh (13-Emerson Samba, 74); 16-Ibrahim Khalil Tahini (19-Sheriff Suma, 58), 18-Kalie Jalloh.
SLE-Lansana Boyoh (caution) 37th
Group D Results/Schedule
Thursday, August 14
Sunday, August 17
Wednesday, August 20