Unwilling to alter contract, Adu dismissed from Union

986643.jpg

Unwilling to alter contract, Adu dismissed from Union

WAYNE, Pa. -- The Union gave Freddy Adu an ultimatum.

Renegotiate your contract, abide by certain team rules and stay with the Union for a third season, or start looking for a new home. And as the Union began training camp on Monday at YSC Sports without Adu, the players choice was clear.

We presented Freddy with a couple scenarios, where we felt comfortable with bringing him back under certain conditions, Union coach John Hackworth said. Freddy came back and said he would stick with his current situation. He made it very clear. He knew that if he made that choice, he would not be coming back as part of this team.

Basically, what we did was say was 'If youre ready to renegotiate and come back under some different guidelines, well be happy to talk. If you dont want to do that, we want you to clearly understand you wont be back with us next year.' He knew that. Freddy and I have had enough conversations, communication was very clear between he and I and his representatives.

Adus dismissal from the club does not come as a surprise, as the 23-year-old midfielder never fully conformed to the Union under Hackworth, who took over for Peter Nowak in June of 2012. There is some surprise that the decision to move on without him wasnt completely financial. Adu made nearly 500,000 for his lackluster performace last season.

When it comes to the contractual part, it was financial, Hackworth said. But a lot of it had to do with the role Freddy would play within our team. Especially, when you compare him and his stature in our locker room relative to the guys who were in there.

He has talent, there is no question about that. But how he puts that all together is up to Freddy. For us, it didnt amount to what we expected, not for what we want for this team going forward and not for the philosophy that this team was founded on.

Although its unclear what exactly Adu did to sour the Union, money and performance certainly played a part in his demise. One of the biggest and most intriguing names in American soccer, Adu, since he was 14, has carried with him huge expectations -- a great realization of his immense talent. But his skill, and more importantly his paycheck, have never seemed to match his on-field production.

Freddy is a very talented young man and Ive said it many times. I dont think people have an appreciation for Freddy like I do, as far as what he can do on the field and what he is capable of, Hackworth said. But he certainly didnt meet the lofty expectations placed on him with our team. And that was ultimately what it came down to.

Since joining the club in Aug. 2011, Adu managed seven goals in 35 games. However, in the 34-game 2012 campaign, Adu was an unused sub in 10 of the 24 games in which he was on the roster. When asked if the signing was an error from the beginning, Hackworth said it wasnt his choice to make at the time, but that Adus contract length and value handcuffed the team.

Being honest, he is on a long-term contract that makes it hard in this league with salary cap restrictions, to do some things, to have a player like that who doesnt fit into your plans, he said.

He was given plenty opportunities to play and play a significant role for us and be the player we expected him to be when we signed him. That didnt happen. You can look at numbers, stats. It didnt happen for us as a team or for Freddy. It didnt work.

But with regards to an official transfer, where does Adu go from here?

Were trying to make sure we find a solution thats good for the Philadelphia Union and Freddy, said Hackworth. We want him to go on and have a very successful career -- hes only 23. He has a lot of front of him. At the same time, it has to be something that works for us, as well.

Weve been working on this for a long time and we will continue. Right now, the international window is open and its a continuing process. From our side and Freddys side, were working on it.

With his dismissal from the Union, Adu is moving to his ninth different professional club since 2004, making him a tough sell. Hackworth, however, seemed to have the sales pitch down.

There are lots of teams around the world who are interested, said the coach. He certainly has a name that has a lot of value and coaches look at the types of things he is able to do as a player.

E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@comcastsportsnet.com

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

uspresswire-union-epps-jones.jpg
USA Today Images

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.