There once was a time when Freddy Adu believed if you're good enough you're old enough. That chip on his shoulder enabled him to excel against soccer players twice his age.

That chip has gradually faded away during his first two years in Major League Soccer, and it's something Real coach John Ellinger is eager for him to rediscover.

"Somewhere along the way he lost that, and I told him to find it, glue it up there and make sure it stays up there because he used to play with that edge," said Ellinger, who was Adu's coach when he was a member of the U.S. Under-17 National Team at age 13.

Through two weeks of training camp with his new team, the results have been good but not great for Adu.

Part of the problem is that Adu has been fighting a nasty head cold, making his 75-minute performance against New York Sunday all the more impressive.

Like his temporary ailment, Adu believes the other things presently slowing him down will improve over time.

"We're still definitely not there yet, we're still starting to gel together and get better and better," said Adu. "It's going to take all of preseason to get completely settled in."

As the team becomes a more cohesive unit this preseason, Adu is hopeful RSL can evolve into the type of possession-oriented team that made his old team, D.C. United, so dominant last year. Adu said his D.C. teammates were so good at understanding each others tendencies, they didn't even think twice about playing certain balls into tight spaces because they knew guys could handle it.

Once that trust develops, Adu envisions that many of the problems plaguing RSL this preseason will quickly go away.

Ellinger is particularly impressed with how Adu's been received by his new teammates.

Some might expect animosity toward Adu considering he's the highest paid player on the team at age 17, and he's making up to 20 times more than some of his new teammates. That just hasn't been the case.

"One of the things I've seen from the senior pros is they actually care about him. They want to help him and they know Freddy wants to do well, and he wants the team to do well," said Ellinger.

Adu says that both on the field and off the field, things are great. "It's easy here. Everyone gets along well," he said. "(On the field) they're helping me get a feel with what kind of style we play, and that's been really helpful."

One thing Real fans — particularly the screaming kids — will learn quickly once the season gets under way is that Adu isn't invincible. The novelty of his age is primarily gone. Sure the potential is there unlike some players to do great things, but for all his creativity, he still losses the ball a lot and still gets knocked off the ball quite easily by bigger defenders.

Carey Talley, who will be tucked just behind Adu this year in Real's five-man midfield, is one of the veterans who's really taken Adu under his wings.

"Freddy's fit in perfect," he said. "What a lot of people need to understand he's one guy on a team that's expected to share responsibilities. Anything we get extra out of him, that's a bonus."

Once Adu gets that chip back on his shoulder, those bonuses could come in the form of many goals and many assists.

RESERVES PREVAIL: RSL's Reserves defeated Stetson University 5-1 Monday afternoon. Chris Brown scored a pair of goals, while Duke Hashimoto and Joey Worthen also scored, in addition to Stetson's own goal.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com