June 8, 2008
By Michael Lewis
'I'M HAVING FUN AGAIN'
Adu likes being out of the limelight
Montclair, N.J. -- Remember that 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu? Well, he just turned 19 on June 2 and he isn't American soccer's latest phenom. That goes title goes to Red Bulls striker 18-year-old Jozy Altidore, who is on the verge of accepting a $10 million transfer to Villarreall in Spain.
Adu is out of the American media spotlight, trying to crack the lineup on a regular basis with world-famous Benfica in Portugal.
More than anything else, the former D.C. United and Real Salt Lake midfielder said that he is having fun again. When he originally signed with MLS as a 14-year-old in 2003, Adu was the main focus of publicity for the league. Everywhere he went there were pre-game press conferences and tons of interview requests.
Now, life is much more different.
"There was a lot of pressure before," he said after U.S. National Team practice at Montclair State University Friday. "Now, I'm just having a good time. I'm having fun again. Before I think I let a lot of things get to me and I allowed a lot of get in the way of my development and I don't want that to happen again. You learn from your mistakes. You really do.
"Fortunately for me, I'm young enough that I started very early now I still have enough time to correct these things and move on from there."
Adu, whose U.S. team plays top-ranked Argentina in an international friendly at Giants Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, enjoys his new status.
"Now I can focus on playing and not worrying about that stuff," he said. "Some people are going to say that you're a phenom and this and that. I don't care much about that stuff anymore. I just want to play. It's a great opportunity for me. Thank God for the talent that I have. I just want to do the best I can basically to push myself and my talent."
Asked what he has learned at Benfica, Adu replied: "How to be a better professional and a stronger person in general. I am living out there on my own. I've really learned to be a man and now deal with not having everything going your way all the time. At D.C. I dealt with it differently. At Benfica, I'm just working hard, even when I'm not in the lineup. It pays off at the end."