Even for Freddy Adus Biggest Supporter, the Time Is Right for Union to Move on

Even for Freddy Adus Biggest Supporter, the Time Is Right for Union to Move on

If you followed me on Twitter last season, or sat anywhere within earshot at PPL Park, you know I somehow found myself in a unique role among Philadelphia Union fans: the unofficial president of the Freddy Adu Defenders Club.

Adu has drawn more than his fair share of criticism since joining the Union in Aug. 2011. And yes, he definitely hasn’t lived up to his hefty price tag, which is anywhere from $400,000 to $519,000, depending which column you pick on this handy chart issued by the MLS Players Union.

My main point of contention with people who shouted him down every time he touched the ball or sailed a shot over the bar was that he was – and remains – more individually talented than any player on the field in blue and gold. That includes Sebastien Le Toux, Michael Farfan and Roger Torres.

People liked to rip on Adu because he wasn’t living up to his high salary, wasn’t scoring two goals per game, and wasn’t – in their eyes at least – playing well with his teammates. And on many occasions, that was not far from the truth.

A vast majority of Adu’s passes were – on their own – brilliant. Less than half of them, however, ever seemed to connect. Not because they were offline or poorly weighted, but because he was on a different wavelength than most of his teammates.

Whether that was because he played at a different level, wasn’t playing in his ideal position, wasn’t getting enough full 90-minute runs on the field, or wasn’t giving it his all in training is not really the point anymore. All I was trying to point out is that soccer is not basketball. You can’t just be more talented than everyone else and therefore dominate the game.

All that being said, I’m not exactly devastated that Adu is “not part of our plans going forward,” according to an E-mail from manager John Hackworth to season ticket holders Sunday night, as well as an article by Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald after Thursday's MLS SuperDraft.

Hackworth even got in a serious dig at predecessor Peter Nowak in his email to fans:

“We have a number of challenges because of moves we have made in the past couple of years that affect us long term and frankly, Freddy Adu is a major one.”

Adu seemed to not only divide Union fans, but it was pretty clear he wasn’t much of a team player. In 18 months on the roster, I can’t remember a single teammate coming out in support of Adu via a quote in the press, an offhand mention at a team appearance, or even a middle-of-the-night tweet. If you follow any Union players on Twitter, you’ll learn most of them are pretty tight and socialize often. None ever seemed to hang out with Adu.

He often tweeted about his time in Europe, his desire to go back, and – most often – himself. His #AduIT hashtag that he placed on all his tweets and constant retweets of anyone who supported him became running jokes in the small-but-passionate Union circles.

Just as I mentioned that one player cannot make a team, a player like that can undermine one – maybe not as much in the English Premier League or La Liga. But in MLS? Absolutely.

Why? Just look at that chart of player salaries again.

Imagine for a moment that, at your job, you were doing more than your fair share of work. You were selling more units, turning in more reports, or flipping more burgers per hour than anyone in the room. You were a star employee for a company that had a down year, and you made $10 an hour.

A few cubicles away was a guy who worked half-days, never said a nice thing about anyone, and always seemed to have his eye on a bigger job.

He made $50 an hour.

"You" would be Sheanon Williams ($90,500 in 2012), one of the Union’s lone bright spots last year. "He" was Freddy Adu ($519,000).

Adu’s departure won’t exactly leave a hole in the dressing room, nor will it severely impact the stat sheet (five goals, one assist in 24 games). But, the Union’s obvious desire to be done with the Adu Experiment has left the team high and dry when it comes to leverage.

Adu did not join the team at its first public workout Monday in Wayne, and will not travel to Florida for camp. According to Hackworth, the team tried to restructure Adu’s deal – i.e. pay him less – and he, understandably, said “no.” So, unlike most sports, where coaches will talk up a player and even play them more often to increase value, Hackworth has shown all his cards:

“At the moment, Freddy has not been sold nor loaned and he continues to be our player, but in reality, while we are paying his salary and while we have his rights – he is not a part of our plans going forward.  … The next step for him is one that we have been trying to work on since October, which is to see if there is a viable option to sell or loan him that makes sense for our organization and for Freddy.”

Don’t expect teams to be banging down the door for Adu’s services. Those who will call – and there will be some, I’m sure – will not give much back in return, whether it’s money (foreign sale/loan) or players (MLS trade).

The Union owe it to themselves and their fans to pick the "least-worst" offer and take it. Just be done with this saga and get it over with. Adu is a talented player, who someday may find the perfect coach and perfect teammates and perfect situation in which to thrive. But until he grows up and finds that place, his presence with the Union – even if it’s just a name on the annual salary list – will only rub people the wrong way.

Hackworth has been very quick to clear the decks of Nowak’s pet projects and PR nightmares. There are no indications he won’t do the same with Adu. His E-mail to season ticket holders was forthright, honest and refreshing.

While it may cost them transfer dollars, his willingness to push Adu aside before training camp for the sake of team chemistry should be commended. Because if this team was all about “making a buck” and not about winning trophies – a complaint I hear surprisingly often from Union fans – Hackworth would be talking up Adu and running him out there in preseason friendlies to try to boost his worth.

As much as I defended Adu, and as talented as he might be, it’s time for the Union to move on from Nowak’s experiments.

And none of those was as risky as signing Freddy Adu.

New Names
The Union added four names to the roster in the last week. The team drafted “forward” Don Anding (Northeastern) and midfielder Stephen Okai (University of Mobile) in the SuperDraft, then signed Trinidad & Tobago's Damani Richards and forward Aaron Wheeler, who last played for the awesomely-named FC KooTeePee (yes, really) in Finland.

Anding’s "forward" designation is in quotes because Hackworth said it’s more likely we’ll see him play left back, the team’s most glaring need right now, although Richards will now be a prime candidate for that spot, as well. Okai appears to be a prototypical holding midfielder, a la Amobi Okugo.

The Union will likely add a few more names this week as they acquired the Nos. 12 and 17 picks in the Supplemental Draft.

Unlike most other sports – with their Mel Kipers and endless draft-day analysis – there isn’t much to know about names in the SuperDraft or even free agent signings. I won’t pretend to know too much about them without seeing them in person. Just learn the names and look at the faces so you can impress your friends when the team breaks camp next month.

The season opener is a short 40 days away.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

052716_mackanin_slide.jpg

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

052716_okafor_noel_slide.jpg

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It's the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it's his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

"We needed LeBron to set the tone for us early and I thought he did that," coach Tyronn Lue said.

James will be the eighth player in NBA history to appear in six consecutive finals and the first who didn't play for the Boston Celtics.

"He's just a great player," Lue said. "He's a proven winner. He's always won over the course of his career. To go to six straight finals is unbelievable."

James got there by taking down a Toronto team that set a franchise record with 56 wins and reached the conference finals for the first time in 21 seasons.

After a second-quarter dunk, James shared some verbal barbs with rapper Drake, the Raptors' global ambassador and the man who popularized the nickname `6ix' for Toronto.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith added 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday's Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

"This city has been craving a championship," Lue said. "We have the right team and we have the right talent."

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered "Let's go, Raptors! Let's go, Raptors!" throughout most of the final three minutes.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said reaching the conference finals was "a tremendous learning experience" for his young team, one that's "a step ahead" in its process of becoming a championship contender.

"We're learning," Casey said. "We're not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We're going to be."

A dejected Lowry said it was hard to see the positive side of Toronto's best season ever.

"Of course you're going to look back at some point but right now I'm disappointed," he said. "Simple as that, I'm disappointed."

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland's nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. ... Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

052716_wentz_slide.jpg

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

NEW YORK -- A person familiar with the negotiations says the New York Jets made a three-year offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year.

That offer has remained on the table for Fitzpatrick, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is commenting publicly on the negotiations.

The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer Friday.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been locked in a contract stalemate. The 33-year-old quarterback is a free agent and coming off a season in which he threw a Jets-record 31 touchdown passes and led New York within a victory of the playoffs.

Both the Jets and Fitzpatrick have said they would like a reunion, but have unable to agree on a deal.

Bears: First-round pick Leonard Floyd agrees to deal
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd have agreed to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

The Bears drafted the outside linebacker from Georgia with the ninth pick after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago hopes he will add some athleticism to a team trying to build on a 6-10 season. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 , and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season.

With the announcement Friday, the Bears have agreed to contracts with eight of their nine picks. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-rounder, is the exception.

NFL: Navy's Reynolds, Carter can defer military service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds will get his chance to play in the NFL this season.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Friday that the record-setting Navy quarterback Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain can defer their military service to play in the NFL.

Carter made the announcement during his graduation speech to the academy in Annapolis. As students cheered the news about their graduating classmates, Carter said: "Go get 'em."

Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He is the NCAA's career leader in touchdowns with 88. He had 31 touchdown passes while leading Navy's triple-option offense. The Ravens plan to use him as a running back, receiver and kick returner.

Swain has signed with the San Diego Chargers (see full story).

Redskins: Activists criticize poll on team name
WASHINGTON -- Native American leaders and activists have criticized a recent US national poll that found nine of 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the Washington Redskins' name.

On a conference call held Friday by the National Congress of American Indians and "Change the Mascot" campaign, panelists voiced opposition to a Washington Post poll that surveyed 504 Native Americans, 90 percent of whom said the name doesn't bother them.

James Fenelon, a California State San Bernardino sociology professor, called the poll "immoral," adding it was not representative of Native American communities. Amanda Blackhorse, lead plaintiff in the trademark case against the Redskins, said the "misguided" poll will not affect attempts to change the name.

National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata said: "This issue is not about polling. This issue is about human rights."

D.C. council member David Grosso said he hadn't been swayed and that the government would not support the team moving back into the District unless the name was changed.

The team currently plays its home games in Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility in Virginia.