MLS teleconference call

In teleconference call held Tuesday, April 6, 2004, D.C. United forward Freddy Adu, Head Coach Peter Nowak, and Los Angeles Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton discussed the second match of the season for each team: on Saturday, April 10 when the Galaxy hosts United at The Home Depot Center live on Fox Sports World / Fox Sports Español, and HDNet (10:00pm ET).

Today’s guests:
D.C. United Head Coach – Peter Nowak
D.C. United forward – Freddy Adu
Los Angeles Galaxy President and General Manager – Doug Hamilton

Doug Hamilton opening statement:
“Let me begin by congratulating the entire D.C. organization for what appeared on TV to be a wonderful event, one that had the crowd involved in it. It’s also appropriate to congratulate Peter (Nowak) on his victory. It’s a great way to start your coaching career.

“Freddy, we’ll officially welcome you to the League when you arrive in Los Angeles and you’ll find that the Home Depot Center is a great place to showcase anyone’s talents. We look forward to your involvement in that game.

“You saw two teams this weekend committed to sending people forward and committed to showcasing the talent that exists in our League. We’re excited about our start. We’ll put it into perspective and recognize that it’s only one game. We look forward to D.C.’s arrival and putting on a show for our fans against a team that registered a victory against the defending champions. It’s going to be a great game with a great crowd and we’re looking forward to it.”

Peter Nowak opening statement:
“Congratulations to Doug (Hamilton) and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The League started with big crowds in Los Angeles and D.C. and we’re looking forward to going to Los Angeles and showing what we can do. There are a few things we should do better. It should be a very exciting game.”

Freddy Adu opening statement:
“I’m obviously very excited. I got the first-game jitters off my back. I’m ready to start thinking about playing soccer.”

Nowak on whether he considered starting Freddy Adu due to all the anticipation:
“We felt this was going to be the best way. It was very important for all of us to start the season in the right way. Of course, if Freddy starts and things don’t go our way then everyone is going to say ‘what are we going to do next?’ The responsibility is not only on the coaches but on all of us to make this work the right way. Media and fans think he’s going to come on and perform miracles. Professional sports don’t work this way. Freddy understands this. He’s a very young man and he has nerves and his ability. I think that 30 minutes was enough to show people. As I said he’s going to come along with time and experience. Of course he’s going to get more minutes and more games every single week. The season is very long and you’ll get the chance to see Freddy in a full 90 minutes.”

Adu and his impressions of his first game:
“I expected to do a little better on the field. I set really high standards for myself and I want to push myself. Watching it on tape, I made the right decision and sometimes I didn’t make the right decision. But this was the first game. I’m not worried. As time goes on I’m going to learn and just get more comfortable. I’m not really worried about it.”

Hamilton on whether he would pressure his coach to play Freddy:
“I think Peter is a pretty strong-willed individual and he’s been around the game a long time and he understands what’s best for the long-term for his team and players. I would put Sigi (Schmid) in that same category. We have to manage this and I think the way D.C. is doing it in putting the team first is the appropriate way. He is a young man who is going to have lots of minutes in this League and we’re going to get to see the brilliance that we’ve seen with his national team games. When he’s ready and the situation is right I’m sure he’ll get the minutes. I think it’s being managed well right now.”

Adu on whether he feels pressure to start or whether he prefers the gradual integration:
“It’s up to the coach to do what’s right for the team. Whatever decision Peter makes I have to go with it. I don’t necessarily have to agree with him but you have to respect him because he’s your coach and he’s trying to look out for the wellbeing of the team. All I can do is to work harder, practice and try to earn a starting spot.”

Adu on best advice he has received:
“The best advice is just for me to be me. This kind of stuff has a tendency of getting out of hand. But the best advice I’ve received is not to worry about it, to be myself and everything else will take care of itself.”

Adu on what he expects from this season:
“As time goes on I expect to start getting a whole lot more comfortable with the League and the style of play of our team. I know I’m going to start doing a lot better on the field. All I have to do is work harder and make that time come a little faster.”

Nowak on whether he has spoken to other coaches in the League about how to handle the situation:
“Not really. But we have a very honest team and my assistants are very honest. We work this way all the time. I talk to them, to my players and to Freddy. We’re in the situation where we have to adjust to what’s best for the team and what’s best for Freddy. He’s a professional player right now and the most important thing is how we’re going to do during the season. The season is going to be long and I’m not interested in getting other people’s advice.”

Hamilton on the balancing act of promoting Freddy Adu:
“We’re pretty fortunate. We have a solid fan base in Los Angeles now. We were very close to a sell out this past weekend and we will sell out with Freddy. We don’t have a ton going on around Freddy to be honest other than making sure that we get the word out that this is his one appearance in Los Angeles. We have one little promotion around him – the Freddy Pack: if you’re 14 and under you can get into the game for $14. Other than that we really haven’t done more. With Freddy, so much has been made of him and he’s been on so many shows, that it’s just making sure people recognize that he’s in town this weekend. I think it’s been done tastefully. D.C. United took a long time before they started to promote him because he was still finishing up school and wasn’t with the team. For the first time we have an American player who we can build around and we will do that. Before Landon Donovan we were using the Marco Etcheverry’s, the Valderrama’s and the Cienfuegos’s. We are in the entertainment business and we do have a responsibility of putting fans in the seats. That means touting the stars we do have. Right now one of those stars is Freddy.

“We recognize that he really is only 14. What we’re marketing is his ability. We’re not saying anything outrageous and we’re not selling anything other than somebody who has shown glimpses of being very special. Whether you’re 14 or you’re 28, if you have shown glimpses of being very special, that’s what we’re going to promote. I have no personal fear that anyone is going to exploit him because he’s not in an industry where he can be overly exploited. Let’s make sure we always talk about ability. Time will test that theory out. He has to go in against the guys and get it done. If he’s doing that then the story grows bigger. If he’s not then the story is that we’re selling potential.”

Nowak on his impressions of the Los Angeles Galaxy:
“I’m going to watch their game in the next couple of days. But as I said even before the first game, we have to take care of our business first and then see what we can do to win the second game. I’m going to evaluate this game in the next couple of days.”

Adu on what question he would ask himself if he were a member of the media:
“The question I would ask is ‘do I deserve to start?’ That’s what I would ask myself. My answer would be: at the moment 50/50 because I don’t feel like I’ve really done enough in practice to secure a starting job. I’ve been competing for a starting job but not to secure one. That’s what I’ve got to do in practice.”

Hamilton on whether the match on Saturday will sell out:
“We can see the light right now. We expect to sell out. If our pattern of sales is any indication, we’re in a very good position right now. We have some tickets left, good tickets and good seats. We’ve shown that we’re capable of selling the games out and this is one game that we will eventually sell out.”

Nowak on whether Freddy Adu will come off the bench in the short-term:
“The most important thing is how the games go and then we will see and make our decision. Even before the game starts I will be evaluating things this week. We still have a couple of days of practicing in D.C. and then we’ll do the best for this team. We’ll see in the next couple of days.”

Adu on what was different about Saturday’s debut and what Alecko Eskandarian told him on the substitution:
“I was ready to play and on the substitution Alecko Eskandarian told me to go out there and ball and that he loves me. I didn’t want to try to do too much. We were winning 2-1 and I just wanted to keep the ball and when the right times comes maybe take guys on. This was my first game. I’m not going to go in and beat everyone on the dribble. I’m just going to take it one game at a time. I adjust to things quickly and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next game I’ll be out there playing and it will be the old me. Probably the reason I was so conservative in the first game was because we were up 2-1 and we didn’t need to do anything special. But there were also so many expectations that I didn’t want to get caught up in the hype and I wanted to do what the team needed me to do which was to keep the ball and keep it moving.”

Adu on what felt different about the game because it was his debut:
“I didn’t want it to feel differently but honestly it did. Everyone was chanting my name and everyone wanted me to get out there and perform miracles. But it’s not like that. It’s a man’s game. It’s a professional’s game. You can’t just go in and start taking over games like that this early. Hopefully some day I’ll be able to do that but right now I’m working hard to be on the field to start and to help my team win. The thing that was so different about that game was just the fact that it was my first game. Sitting out there and watching, I felt comfortable going in but when I got out there on the field everything was much faster than it looked like on the bench.”

Nowak on playing Adu off the bench on Saturday:
“I want to say that we don’t want to make Freddy into an average player who’s going to come in and fill in the gaps. He’s a special young man and we have to see his strengths and abilities. But we have to see the big picture: he’s going to make miracles but he needs time to be more comfortable with the situation, with the fans and with the players he’s playing against. He did well last week with all the expectations and media. But he’s a very young and special man. Let him be Freddy Adu and he’s going to be Freddy Adu in the next couple of weeks. I’m sure about that.”

Adu on why he chose a professional career at this point:
“The decision to go pro was because I had gotten to a point where I really wanted to challenge myself and see how I fared against better and stronger players. I had the opportunity to graduate high school early. I wanted to do it, work hard to get it done and go pro to challenge myself. I had been with the Under-17 and Under-20 national teams and playing with them. So I knew what the level was and I wanted to go to the next level to challenge myself.”

Adu on what advice he could give to school kids:
“Just follow your dreams. My dream was to become a pro soccer player and I’m doing it at age 14. Just follow your dreams no matter how old you are. Work hard at it and you will get it.”

Nowak on what he sees in Freddy Adu during practice that make him special:
“We saw Freddy last Saturday and he’s very special. He has all the tools to be one of the best in the world. But this is still progress, daily practice and we have to work hard. He has to show the players and the coaches and he will be one of the special guys. He’s going to play more minutes and more games and he’s going to get more comfortable with the situation. I’m sure the season is going to be long enough for him to show his strengths and show the people and the world that he’s a very special young man.”

Nowak on whether he envisions Adu starting at some point during the mid-season or late in the season:
“We are going to evaluate the situation every single week. This week we have a game in Los Angeles and Dema Kovalenko is out and we have to see what we can do best. Freddy is one of the options.”

Nowak on whether it is possible that Freddy can start on Saturday against Los Angeles:
“As I said we’re going to evaluate how the practice goes this week and we will see what we can do to make our team stronger. As I said, we have a coupe of options and Freddy is one of them.”

Adu on how he’s like every other 14-year-old:
“I do the same things. I hang out with friends. I try speaking to girls like any other kid. We play a lot of video games and talk trash back and forth – just normal stuff.”

Adu on what he does when he’s on the road with older teammates:
“The same thing I used to do with the Under-17s when we went on the road. I stay in my room and watch TV and I have a huge DVD collection and I just watch a lot of movies. Also, I have friends who live in different places from previous national team camps so I usually hang out with them. And they come pick me up and we hang at their house or they hang out with me.”

Adu on whether he sees a generation gap:
“Actually not really. Some of these guys might be older but they’re pretty cool and do some of the things that I do – like playing video games.”

Nowak on what the other options are to replace Kovalenko besides Freddy Adu:
“We’re going to watch the game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution and we’re going to see what we can do on our side to make our team stronger. We can play different guys in the middle and we can still put some other guys on the left or right and strengthen our defensive line which I felt did a good job on Saturday. We have a pretty competitive roster right now and Freddy and the other guys are part of it.”

Nowak on whether he has given thought on when Freddy Adu’s first start should come at home or on road:
“Every week is different. I didn’t expect Dema Kovalenko to be suspended for the next game. We have 18-19 players who are pretty healthy right now and everyone is fighting for a spot. The same goes with the goalkeepers. I don’t think about putting him in as a starter at a home game or away game. If he’s going to prove to all of us that he wants to be on this team and he wants to start then there’s no question he’s going to start.”

Adu on how he expects to deal with fans on the road:
“I’ve been through that before. All I have to do is to play. The best way to get back at them is to score or to do whatever you need to do to help your team win. All you have to do is to keep your head straight and keep playing. I’m used to tuning all that stuff out and just playing my game. I’m not worried.”

Adu on facing San Jose Earthquakes veteran Jeff Agoos one-on-one last Saturday:
“The guy is a pretty strong guy, I have to admit it. He turned at the right time with me. That was a good defensive play. Obviously it wasn’t a foul. But I felt a step slow. I don’t know why. It’s probably due to it being my first game. I may have been a little nervous before going into the game. But right now I’m telling you that I’m not nervous and I’m ready to go. If I have the chance to start I’m ready to go and I’m going to play well for this team.”

Adu on going up against Los Angeles Galaxy forward Carlos Ruiz:
“I was excited to be playing against Landon Donovan last Saturday. He’s proven himself on the national team and on the League level. I’m excited to play but that doesn’t mean anything to me. Whatever I have to do to help my team win, I’m ready to go out there and do my part.”

Adu on what he would say to kids who want to be the next Freddy Adu:
“If you’re happy and comfortable with the decision to become a professional, follow your dream and go ahead and do it. You might not always get there but if you work extremely hard you will get your wish.”

Adu on his life away from the soccer field:
“I do the dishes, clean my room and clean the house. When I’m done with all that stuff I hang out with my friends and we watch movies, hang out and play video games and just have fun.”

Adu on whether his mom still asks him to do chores at home:
“She doesn’t have to tell me that. I know nothing will change around the house, it doesn’t matter what I do. So I just do it to spare myself from hearing my mother say it