Adu enters in 81st minute of tie against Canada

January 22, 2006

SAN DIEGO -- Freddy Adu got two firsts out of the way Sunday night.

A goal wasn't one of them.

Adu became the youngest player in the history of the U.S. national team when the 16-year-old entered late in Sunday night's 0-0 tie against Canada.

"I've been waiting for it for a long time and it finally comes," Adu said. "I was very excited."

Two minutes later, after he'd barely touched the ball in his first international appearance, he got his first yellow card.

"It's no big deal," Adu said.

The Americans played listlessly in the opening exhibition game of 2006 as they prepare for the World Cup.

Adu entered in the 81st minute when oft-injured Eddie Johnson came off with a bruised right calf.

Two minutes later, Adu touched the ball for the first time, trying to get away from defender Adam Braz. There was contact and Adu tried to take advantage, pretending to be fouled in the penalty area.

Mexican referee Benito Archundia didn't buy it and flashed the yellow card.

"Hey, I just had to push it a little bit," Adu said. "You go down, and it could go for you or it could go against you. It's one of those things where you put the referee in a tough position."

At 16 years, 234 days, Adu beat the previous mark for youngest player set by Mike Slivinski, who was 16 years, 318 days when he appeared against Jamaica on Sept. 14, 1991.

Adu left Ghana and became a U.S. citizen in 2003. He could've played for either country's national team.

He was 14 when he made his professional debut for Major League Soccer's D.C. United two years ago and played last summer for the United States at the FIFA World Youth Championship for under-20 teams. He is considered a long shot to make the 23-man U.S. roster for the World Cup.

As it is, the American team is expected to include approximately 14 players who are with European clubs, and Canada didn't qualify for the World Cup. So only a handful of players on the field Sunday night will actually make it to Germany.

Adu and Braz had words after the contact. "I just told him to relax a little bit," Adu said. "That was it."

U.S. captain Eddie Pope called it "a smart play." "You never know what's going to happen," Pope said. "But I thought he played well overall. It was good for him to get a cap under his belt and move forward."

American coach Bruce Arena thought Adu did fine. "It's always good for a young kid to get a taste of competition."

However, Adu wouldn't have played if Johnson hadn't gotten hurt. When Johnson went out, Adu came in as a forward.

Adu said he wasn't nervous.

"I just got out there and played my game," he said. "I tried to help the team out. We didn't win, but it was a good first step."

The Americans are headed for their fifth straight World Cup appearance. They'll open June 12 against the Czech Republic at Gelsenkirchen.

Asked to grade his team's performance, Arena said it was worth a C.

"Why? Because it's January and you can't worry about it. I don't think we had a bad performance, but I didn't think anybody stepped up and had a big performance," Arena said.

Landon Donovan felt differently.

"We played an awful game," Donovan said. "I'm disappointed in a lot of performances, I would say. But I think we need to understand that this is a World Cup year and for a lot of people, this is their last chance. If you're not smart enough to realize that, that's not good.

"I expect more, frankly, but we'll get better."

U.S. goalkeeper Matt Reis made a nice save against Canadian captain Dwayne De Rosario in the 62nd minute. A minute later, Canada's Patrice Bernier shot wide of the net.

The Americans had two chances in the 42nd minute, including a shot by Frankie Hejduk that forced Canadian keeper Greg Sutton into a save.

In the 17th minute, Taylor Twellman stole the ball near midfield, dribbled in and overshot net.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press