"A blind man on a galloping horse can see his talent," says DC United coach Ray Hudson. "He's a little Faberg� egg, and everyone's just trying to protect him."
But is making him the new face of the league protecting him?
Damn right it is.
Freddy and his no-fuss mother, Emelia, turned down $3 million more from England's Manchester United to stay close to their new house in Potomac, Md. Emelia's insisting that Freddy get his high school diploma—which he's nailing down in March, three years early. And she wants to keep an eye on him because he's, well, 14.
"Man, being home is going to be great," says Freddy in a voice that still cracks sometimes, "except I have a lot of chores." Freddy has much to Adu. He vacuums, does the dishes and mows the lawn. "She can kinda get on my case sometimes," he says of his mom. Freddy, can't your agent talk to her?
It all beats Ghana, though. At 14 most kids there are just starting high school, where as "juniors" they have to "serve" the seniors, which includes washing their clothes and bringing them food. At 14 the most Adu will have to do as a rookie is to carry the ball bag.
Still, an MLS gig comes spring-loaded with temptation. The next-youngest player the league ever signed—Santino Quaranta, who was 16 at the time—is 19 now and already living with a girlfriend and new baby.
Worse, the average age of this season's players was 27. What does Freddy do when everybody else is going to the bar? Or to an R-rated movie? Do you get the full per diem if you're eating off the child's menu? And don't even think about trying to get the mini-bar key, Freddy.
"I'm not worried," he says, laughing. "My time will come."