Just one year ago, then 13-year-old Freddy Adu wasn't an American citizen, and while his U.S. Under-17 MNT teammates traveled around the world to play international matches, he had to go home to Bethesda, Md. Adu, who's now 14, is just two days away from taking the pitch for the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team vs. South Korea in its first game of the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship. Adu received his citizenship in February and has been having a great time making his mark across the world the past six months as he travels with his U-17 teammates. He didn't waste any time either, getting a goal and an assist against Jamaica in his first game at the final round of CONCACAF qualifying in early March. As Adu and his U-17 teammates prepare to clash with the best teams in the world, the youngster takes a look back at becoming a U.S. citizen, his first international game with Jamaica, and looks ahead as they try to get out of Group D at the World Championship.
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Adu on getting his U.S. citizenship:
"When I got my U.S. citizenship, obviously I was very excited and my family was very excited. My mom was extremely excited. We had been waiting for that for such a long time. It sucked not being able to travel with the team. Whenever they went on a trip I had to go home because there were only 20 people at Bradenton and I couldn't stay there by myself. I had to go home and it wasn't the greatest feeling in the world because I would have much rather traveled around and seen other things and have been playing. But, I couldn't because I wasn t an American citizen. Once I got my citizenship, I was very excited and I know my mom was because she knew it bothered me that I couldn't travel with the team."
Adu on his first international game:
"When we went to Guatemala, I was with the team and it was for qualifying. It was big because in order to be here (at the World Championship) you have to qualify first. The first game against Jamaica I was extremely nervous, but five minutes into the game I settled into my game and started to help the team win. I was no good to the team if I'm nervous and not playing my game, so I settled into my game and started playing. I got the assist in the fifth minute to Corey (Ashe) and then after that just scoring that goal capped it off for me. It was my first game as an American and my first goal, so that was very special."
Adu on how he felt hearing the national anthem for the first time before a game:
"When the national anthem was playing I had goose bumps all over. I was sweating and I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. I never pictured myself to be an American citizen putting on an American jersey, being from Ghana."
Adu on the team's chances at the World Championship:
"Team-wise we want to first get out of our group to put ourselves in a position to win. That s the ultimate goal right now, just take it one game at a time and just get out of our group. Once we do that it's do or die, so then we will have to have a different approach because we can't have any mistakes. We basically have to play perfect to move on. But, right now we’re not really thinking about the second round, we’re thinking about the first round. We just want to get out of our group. The guys are ready for it and I know I'm ready for it. We just want to win. We know we can win."
Adu on the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team:
"This team is the best team I've ever played with my whole life. The individuals on this team, on and off the field, are awesome. You just want to be with them. I'd rather have these guys on my team than have them against me. We want to just prove everybody wrong. Even with how good we did in the World Cup, people still don't give Americans respect when it comes to soccer. That's something that is in the back of our head when we play and this is the chance to do it - to bring respect to American soccer."