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Adu, United settle difference for ’06 season

Teen star will return to D.C. after season of discontent
/ Source: a href="" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true">The Washington Post</a

Freddy Adu and D.C. United say they have settled their differences, essentially ensuring that the 16-year-old forward will return to the MLS club for a third season this spring.

In his first interview in seven weeks, Adu said: "We laid everything on the table and everything is resolved. It's over and now we can concentrate on winning the championship again."

In mid-October, three days before United's playoff opener, Adu had complained about his playing time and suggested he would be better off playing elsewhere next year. United officials, upset by Adu's comments during a critical stage of the season, responded by suspending him for the first playoff match.

Adu returned in the second half of the subsequent game, a season-ending loss to Chicago, but the situation remained unresolved until issues were addressed at a recent meeting in Bethesda attended by Adu and family members; one of his agents, Dan Segal; MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis; and United executives Kevin Payne and Dave Kasper.

Adu then met with Coach Peter Nowak in Florida last week.

"It's not so much what Peter told me, it's what I got out of it," Adu said in a telephone interview from Bradenton, Fla., where he has begun offseason training. "There were misunderstandings between both sides and we settled that. I don't want to go into specifics and details, but it's behind us now. I'm glad I had the meeting with Peter, I'm glad I had the meeting with D.C. United and everything worked out great and I'm looking forward to the future."

Asked if he regretted his comments before the playoffs, Adu said: "I don't want to go back and talk about that and dwell on it. What happened is past now and that's that. I'm glad everything is okay with D.C. United, I'm happy to be going back to D.C. United and getting ready to play because I love D.C. United."

Payne and Nowak said they did not want to discuss details of the meetings.

"We spent a couple hours together," said Nowak, whose full-time residence is in Naples, Fla. "It's nice to forget about what happened. We don't want to go back; we talked about the future. We're on the same page."

Whether that can be maintained throughout the upcoming season remains to be seen. Adu played in every game for which he was available and averaged 60 minutes per outing this year. He became increasingly frustrated with his playing status, culminating with his outburst at an interview session following an Oct. 18 practice.

He said his playing time was affecting his chances of making the 2006 U.S. World Cup squad. However, U.S. Coach Bruce Arena is planning to invite him to national team training camp next month -- the first official gathering of American players in preparation for the World Cup in Germany next summer.

The 23-man roster won't be finalized until May, with Adu a long shot to make the squad, but a good showing at U.S. camp and a strong start to the MLS season could change things.

Said Payne: "This is where Freddy wants to be. We want him to be here and the coaches are committed to working with Freddy as closely as possible to help him advance, and at the same time, become a more productive member of our team. That's what we expect to happen this coming year and I expect Freddy to make some jumps forward."

Meanwhile, Adu's international image is about to receive a major boost. He confirmed that he has been invited to play in an international charity match in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Dec. 22 to raise money for poverty-relief efforts. The captains of the two squads will be Real Madrid superstars Ronaldo of Brazil and Zinedine Zidane of France.

Looking ahead to what might be his final full MLS season before heading to Europe, Adu said: "I want to be better. I know I have made improvements over the last two seasons and hopefully I keep making improvements. You don't just come in and dominate; you've got to go through steps and learn little by little and that's what I am doing right now. I am having a great time and my teammates have been a great help. I'm pretty excited about next season."