WASHINGTON -- Freddy Adu twisted his right ankle and sat out the last hour of D.C. United's practice Wednesday.
After some ice and work with the trainer, the 14-year-old marquee player pronounced himself fine. His foot had been sore since he got kicked while practicing in Florida three weeks ago, and this appeared to be just a flare-up.
"I just kind of stepped on it wrong again," Adu said.
Coach Peter Nowak was a little more cautious.
"We have to make this ankle stronger," Nowak said. "We'll see how he's going to do tomorrow."
Barring a relapse, Adu should be able to play Saturday when D.C. visits the Los Angeles Galaxy. But the injury could also be a convenient way to resolve Nowak's dilemma over whether his young star should start.
Adu debuted in the 61st minute and was a tentative contributor to United's 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in last Saturday's MLS opener.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well," Adu said. "And obviously I didn't do as good as I would have liked, and I didn't play as much as I would have liked. But that's why we have to work hard and earn your spot on the field."
Another substitute appearance would seem to make sense for Adu's second game, but United has a hole in the starting lineup. Midfielder Dema Kovalenko received a red card against the Earthquakes and must sit out Saturday.
"We have a couple of options," Nowak said. "And Freddy is one of them."
The expected sellout crowd in Los Angeles would like to see Adu for the full 90 minutes, but Nowak has shown he's not the kind of coach who gives in to popular demand. He bristled at criticism that he should have started Adu in the opener, a move that would have rewarded the attention the youngster has brought to a league in need of more fans.
"It was very important for all of us to start the season in the right way," Nowak said. "If Freddy starts and things don't go our way, then everyone is going to say, 'What are we going to do next?' The responsibility is not only on the coaches, but on all of us to make this work the right way."
Adu has repeatedly said that he wants to start, but even he balked when asked whether he deserves to.
"My answer would be, at the moment, 50-50," Adu said. "Because I don't feel like I've really done enough in practice to secure a starting job."
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