United's Payne blasts Adu rumors
WASHINGTON - The controversial remarks from MetroStars President and General Manager Alexi Lalas about teen prodigy Freddy Adu have provoked a swift, intense response from D.C. United, as player and club alike reiterated their commitment to the young player's continued development with the Black-and-Red.
United president and CEO Kevin Payne made a rare appearance in front of print and broadcast journalists on Wednesday to express disappointment and frustration at Lalas' suggestion that Adu might be better served by a move to the Meadowlands. Payne has also conveyed his sentiments to MLS officials, who could be compelled to take disciplinary action against the Metros boss. The league had no comment for this story.
"I've made my position pretty clear," said Payne. "I think it's difficult for everybody. It was unconstructive, it was inappropriate, it wouldn't happen in other leagues and it shouldn't happen in our league. We all need to remember that we're in the professional sports business. This isn't a carnival."
Payne firmly denied any possibility that Adu might leave his hometown club.
"He's staying here, he's going to develop here," he said. "We're pleased with his development, (and) he's going to get better. I think that the level of expectations that have been placed on this kid by adults, by many people who don't know anything about our sport, are unrealistic and unfair. I think that the adults involved in this whole drama need to start acting more adult."
In The New York Times on Tuesday, Lalas was reported as saying: "The MetroStars would love nothing more than to have Freddy Adu. He would certainly play in New York. It's evident that he loves competition and wants to play, and we are certainly a team that would provide him with time on the field. I would love nothing more than for him to get fed up with D.C. Right now, I think the situation is a little like a Bruce Lee movie without a fight. He's got the star power, but there hasn't been the payoff."
Head coach Peter Nowak declined to answer questions about the Lalas affair, as did Adu, but the youngster did reaffirm his loyalty to United and took a thoughtful approach to the challenge of earning playing time in D.C.'s crowded midfield.
"I'm committed to D.C. United. This is the club I wanted to play for," said the Ghanaian-born 16-year-old. "I'm going to be here and I'm going to work hard. I'm in a weird situation, to be honest. I obviously want to be a starter, but the positions I play have a lot of good players already there.
"I'm in a tough situation, but this is what you dream of, this is what you want. You want to compete for a starting job, you want somebody to push you to be better. It's not really any different, what's going on here and what's going on (at other clubs). I was brought here to make a difference and help the team win, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Payne passionately defended Adu and lambasted the media circus that has followed the teenager since he became the youngest professional athlete in modern history as United's top selection in last year's SuperDraft.
"I think people need to have some perspective about this," said Payne. "We get a lot of people in the media that don't ordinarily write about our sport, don't even like our sport, who weigh in with opinions on this. They don't care - to them it's just a sideshow.
"And Freddy is not a sideshow. Freddy is the most talented young player that the United States has produced at this age, and our job is to try to help him become the player he can become. And that's what we're working real hard to do."
Payne, reportedly part of an ownership group currently negotiating to buy the club, pointedly referred to his organization's tradition of excellence and Adu's place within it.
"People need to give this kid a break. I think the expectation level is completely out of control with Freddy," he explained. "We're still trying to win championships here. Long after Freddy is gone, D.C. United is going to remain. We try to do things in a certain way here. It's not an accident that out of nine championship games in our league, we've been in five of them, and won four of them. That didn't happen by mistake."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.