WASHINGTON -- Why make Freddy Adu an All-Star?
After all, the game is an exhibition played for fun, and that's why the 15-year-old rookie, who has started just seven games and scored only two goals for D.C. United, was a special pick by commissioner Don Garber to play for the Eastern Conference in today's MLS All-Star Game at RFK Stadium.
"With Freddy, we recognize with these games that it's part about competition, it's part about celebration -- and it's also about fun," Garber said. "People want to see Freddy."
Never mind that a chance to see established stars such as Landon Donovan, Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope, and Jaime Moreno all on the field at the same time is always a treat. Or that 1994 US World Cup stars John Harkes, Alexi Lalas, and Cobi Jones will be featured in a preliminary game. The fact is that no one has had the type of immediate impact on the league as the teenager who earns a league-high $500,000.
"You have guys who have better years, but maybe don't have the name that other players have," Agoos said. "You see that in every sport; I think soccer's the same way. But to be 15 and just to be able to step on the field, look like you belong, and that you can play is quite an achievement.
"I can understand why other people might be a bit sour that he's here, but . . . All-Star games in every sport are not about the best players. It's about showcasing the players that the league wants to get out."
Actually, the free-spirited play of an All-Star game should be a perfect fit for Adu, whose creative, flowing style doesn't quite mesh in a conservative league in which 30 of 92 games this season have ended in ties. Adu has often been used as a second-half substitute for United, sometimes entering the game after teams have battened down the hatches to prevent a late goal.
"I was just as surprised as everybody else, I guess," Adu said. "This is my first year and pretty much no one expects you to make it here in your first year. I'm just here to have fun and pretty much just show what I've got."
Adu might be the best gimmick yet in the league's attempts to draw attention to its midseason showcase game.
This year, the MLS stars were going to play Spanish club Real Madrid -- featuring superstar David Beckham -- but Real pulled out after a disappointing season, so the East vs. West format returned.