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.

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).