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Much Adu about something

Early edition

By DAVE SCHEIBER
Published January 11, 2007


LAKE BUENA VISTA — In the unfolding tale of the gifted soccer-playing brothers nicknamed Freddy and Fro, a Shakespearean twist is at play these days:

Much Adu about something.

Famous older sibling Freddy, often touted as America’s next big soccer star, has been busy making a mint with Major League Soccer, getting face time on Nickelodeon and, at just 17, gearing up for a stint with a premier European league team when he turns 18 this year.

Meanwhile, on a breezy day at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, lesser-known younger bro Fro is showing glimpses of the skill that may one day lead to the national and international stage as well.

His aggressive, steady play on defense has helped his club team, the Potomac Cougars of Maryland, win the national under-17 “Predator” bracket championship at Disney’s Soccer Showcase Dec. 30.

Of course, that’s no surprise to Adu No. 2. He has established himself as one of the top players in the Washington, D.C. area as a midfielder at a North Bethesda, Md. private school, Georgetown Prep. And though he turns just 16 in May, he has committed orally to attend George Mason University in nearby northern Virginia this fall. He will continue his burgeoning soccer career — and try to set a course for himself that embraces yet isn’t squelched by Freddy’s enormous presence.

“I look up to Freddy and want to have him as my role model,’’ says Fro. “But I don’t want to be stuck behind him. I want to learn from how he’s doing things and then try and use that to help do the things that are best for me. I want to be my own person.’’

Fro’s world

If Freddy’s space on the soccer spectrum is crowded with highlights — on Monday he topped a lineup of 20 U.S. players named to the roster for the under-20 FIFA World Cup — Fro is thriving on MySpace.

He posts self-penned, fully produced rap tunes on his page (myspace.com/blessdwitit): “I write my own lyrics and generally songs with messages — love songs, songs telling my peers not to drink or smoke. Because I don’t do any of that stuff.’’

The teen dubbed Fro in elementary school — “the kids couldn’t pronounce Fredua so somehow it became Fro’’ —plans to study psychology, become a chef and finish college in four years. At 19, he may have the world at his talented feet.

“I definitely want to graduate, because Freddy obviously didn’t go to college,’’ he says.

“So my mom is definitely looking for me to go. But right now, my mind is on graduating from high school and just going to college and becoming a better player and stronger. I want to get known and make my own name.’’

In fact, the brothers share the same given name, Fredua Adu, a custom that is not uncommon in their native Ghana (though Freddy’s middle name is Koranteng and Fro’s is Akoto).

They possess the same upbeat personality, engaging smile and poised demeanor, which friends attribute to the way they have been raised by their mother, Emelia, with no father in the picture.

But as players, they are quite different. Freddy, a muscular 5 feet 8, has a smooth, attacking style as a midfielder.

He started playing organized soccer as a grade-schooler when his family moved to the United States and is considerably further along in his game.

Fro, a good student who skipped sixth grade, didn’t take up the sport until after eighth grade. Today, at a lanky 5-11, he is a tough, tireless defender and a driving force on his high school and club team.

“He’s a fantastic kid, and I really attribute that to his upbringing from his mother,’’ says Potomac coach Pete Mehlert, a professor at American University “Fro is mature way beyond his age.

And he’s a born leader. I think he’ll be very successful in college and after that, he can do what he wants to do.’’

In a semifinal at Disney, Fro objected when a teammate was hit from behind. He could be seen jawing at the referee who declined to penalize the other team with a yellow card. Moments later, Adu himself drew a yellow for a hard tackle at midfield.

“Well, I guess I was giving the ref some lip,’’ he says, grinning, after a 1-0 victory over the Cisco Toros of Arizona.

“And then I went in and actually slipped and fouled the guy. But because I had been talking so much trash, I was given the card.’’

Fro has had to be tough to weather taunts from opponents, who try to rile him by comparing him unfavorably with Freddy. Two years ago, he took it out on an opposing defender who had been teasing him, upending the player with a leg tackle. But he takes those things in stride now.

“Oh, it happens all the time,’’ he says. “They say, 'You’re brother’s better than you, you’ll never be as good as Freddy.’ I never think of it that way, because I don’t see myself as the same player. It actually helps me out if they’re gonna trash talk me. I say, 'Okay, Fro, go out there and prove them wrong.’’’

Homefront

He and his mom live in upscale Potomac near Washington. The home was purchased by Freddy, who signed a $1-million endorsement deal with Nike when he was just 14 and is among the highest-paid MLS players at $550,00.

Until several years ago, he and Fro shared a bedroom, and enjoyed playing endless games of video soccer on their Xbox. But Freddy, unhappy with playing time with D.C. United, was traded in December to Real Salt Lake and isn’t going to be around as much anymore.

That played a big part in Fro’s decision to opt for George Mason, which ended its fall season at 12-6-3, the most wins for the Patriots since the 1998 season.

“It’s close to home and obviously my brother will be going to Europe,’’ he says. “And if I go far away, it would be too much strain on my mom. She’d be all by herself.’’

Fro passed at a chance to hone his skills among national under-17 competition at IMG Academies in Bradenton, as Freddy did for three years. “She was happy about him doing that, but I don’t think she was ready for me to do the same thing,’’ he says.

So Fro won’t go too far from home right now. But there’s no doubt that Freddy’s little brother is going places — and following his own path to get there.

Dave Scheiber can be reached at scheiber@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8541.