Just when you think Freddy-mania has died down a little, D.C. United visits an MLS venue for the first time and has to deal with the hype all over again. Has he lived up to the hype? Who knows? Media and public expectations were so far above what could reasonably be anticipated for any player; meeting such lofty hopes would be almost impossible. What matters is that he is continually improving and that he is doing a very good job for United this season. Adu is a good team player and understands his responsibilities within the team (even if he occasionally forgets to carry the team equipment from the bus). One unfortunate effect of the hoopla surrounding the soon-to-be-15-year-old is that it has overshadowed another talented rookie for D.C. United - Josh Gros.
Gros has played very well all season for D.C. United. He has played in all nine matches, started four times, collected two assists and scored his first professional goal this weekend in Colorado. Apart from his solid statistics, Gros never gets tired. He runs all over the field, defends as willingly as he attacks and plays with maximum energy each minute that he's on the pitch. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Gros impacts every game and is absolutely making the most of his chances to start. When D.C. United returns to full strength personnel-wise, Peter Nowak will have to seriously consider keeping Gros in the starting eleven.
Adu and Gros are as good a tandem of rookies as you will find in MLS. On last Wednesday against Los Angeles, Adu scored his second goal of the year, but the first goal that really showcased his individual ability. He entered the penalty box at the right corner, going at speed with the ball at his feet. He eluded one challenger by side-stepping to his left, then another, then another, moving left little by little until he felt he had enough space to fire a shot into the upper corner. It was a beautiful goal that showed incredible skills and confidence. It was a goal worthy of Michael Owen, Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio or Diego Maradona.
Gros' play has not been as electric as Adu, but it has been just as effective. In his second game, he was called upon to start due to a suspension to Dema Kovalenko. Gros played the full 90 minutes and earned his first career assist. When Adu has scored his goals this season, he hasn't been able to celebrate because D.C. United was still trailing both times. Gros' goal tied the game at 1-1, so he was able to enjoy the moment. It was a fairly mild celebration, as he ran towards the corner flag with his arms out and an enormous smile across his face. The smile seemed like a combination of joy at his first goal, satisfaction that the match was tied and relief that he had finally opened his MLS scoring account.
Gros was the Big East Player of the Year last season and was the leading scorer for Rutgers University, and now that he has scored his first goal as a pro, don't expect him to stop. The goal came very early in the second half and his confidence seemed to soar. For the rest of the game, he was attacking defenders with the ball at his feet. He showed great skills getting into the penalty area several times, yet remained very unselfish, looking to create for his teammates.
Adu's first goal was created by Gros. Gros accelerated down the wing and sent a low cross on the ground into the penalty area; Adu slid and knocked it in. Gros' first goal was created by Adu. Adu played a through ball into the box for Earnie Stewart, who crossed a ball on the ground which Gros slammed into the roof of the net. With a pair of rookies as talented as Adu and Gros, United has a bright future. Depending on how quickly they progress, D.C. United could still be in the midst of a very special season thanks to these two special young players.
Tony Limarzi provides live match commentary for all D.C. United games in English on WMET. He also contributes a column to dcunited.com, in which he breaks down the Black-and-Red's most recent game.