United's young ranks

Teenage experiences in professional athletics

In 1989, while most students were returning home from elementary school to watch Disney Afternoon, Adu was born in Ghana.

When 14-year-old sensation Freddy Adu joined the D.C. United this season, he became the youngest player in Major League Soccer history. He is also the highest paid player, who signed a $500 thousand a year contract. Adu will inevitably face new challenges in following his young predecessors' footsteps.

This is the third time United has had the youngest player in MLS history. Bobby Convey was the first, when he joined in 2000 at age 16.

Then, in 2001, Santino Quaranta joined United, beating Convey in age by four months to become the youngest player.

The transition from a regular high school student to a professional athlete would be a culture shock for anyone. This challenge was taken in stride by Convey.

He experienced a close to a "normal" life as possible, going to prom and hanging out with friends.

"I don't have any regrets because I've done everything that all ... kids my age were supposed to do," Convey said. "You know, I had the teenage girlfriend, I had the prom ... I do everything that the college kids want to do and don't have to do the work."

With no regrets about the past, Convey looks forward to what lies ahead. He achieved his ultimate goal at 16 instead of at 23. He is currently taking college classes through a team tutor in pursuit of a business degree.

Convey has taken strides in his skills and leadership during his four years with United, particularly with the beginning of this season.

Marco Etcheverry, United captain and Bolivian national team star, retired last season from United and professional soccer. With Etcheverry's departure, Convey was ready to step up and get out of the "young guy" role on the team and in the eyes of the media. He wanted to "be somebody important."

"I played in all the national team games and wanted to step up and be important on my team," Convey said. "I see all my teammates with the national team doing well for their [club] teams and I would kind of come back and still be the young guy. So, I wanted to get out of that young guy role..."

Ben Olsen is one of the more experienced players on the team, as well as one of the assistant coaches for the AU Men's Soccer team.

Olsen believes that coaching and playing are two different things. Commenting on his experiences working with AU Men's Soccer head coach Todd West, Olsen appreciates the opportunity to learn how to coach.

"Todd is a great coach and runs a good, clean, competitive athletic environment, and I am very fortunate to be involved with them," Olsen said.

Olsen sees coaching as a possible future career path after playing professional soccer.

Speaking from experience, Olsen foresees no major problems as Adu adjusts to the demands of professional athletics.

Brandon Prideaux echoes Olsen's point of view. He believes that United's mix of young and old players produces a strong team dynamic that cultivates the next generation of players. Despite the age differences and the media's focus on Adu, the players have not lost their commitment to the team.

"Individual success comes after team success, and when the team does well, then individual accolades just fall into place," Prideaux said.

After winning its opening game against San Jose, United (1-2-1) tied twice and lost Saturday to the Chicago Fire, 1-0. United's next home game at RFK stadium is May 8 against the Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m.

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