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.

Temple basketball names Chris Clark assistant coach

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AP

Temple basketball names Chris Clark assistant coach

Chris Clark is back with the Owls.

The former Temple guard and team video coordinator was named an assistant coach to Fran Dunphy’s staff on Wednesday night.

“We are happy to have Chris Clark rejoin our staff,” Dunphy said in a release by the school. “He knows our system as a player and as a staff member last year. He also has extensive coaching experience, serving as an assistant at three different D-I programs. Chris has been successful at every stop in his career, and we look forward to having him back in the fold.”

Clark, a Philadelphia native, played for the Owls from 2004-08 and was a standout sixth man his senior season, helping lead Temple to a 21-13 record and Atlantic 10 conference championship. During the 2015-16 season, he served the Owls as their video coordinator. He left the program in April to join Drexel’s staff as an assistant.

“I am truly excited to be able to return to Temple as an assistant coach on Fran Dunphy’s staff,” Clark said. “Last season was special working at my alma mater as the video coordinator, but to now serve as an assistant is truly an honor. With that said, I want to thank Drexel head coach Zach Spiker for the opportunity to work on his staff, and his understanding through this process. I enjoyed my short time there and wish the program continued success.”

Jerad Eickhoff pitches well in beating White Sox, but why the quick hook?

Jerad Eickhoff pitches well in beating White Sox, but why the quick hook?

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — From the season-ending injuries to Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin to the on-the-mound struggles of Vince Velasquez and Jake Thompson, the Phillies have had some unwelcomed issues with their prized young starting pitchers recently.
 
Jerad Eickhoff has been a most pleasant exception.
 
The 26-year-old right-hander delivered six innings of two-run ball in leading the Phillies to a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).
 
Eickhoff came to the Phillies organization in July 2015 as part of the trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas. He rose to the majors a year ago this week and has now made 34 starts at the game’s highest level. His performance has been pretty encouraging as he has racked up a 3.57 ERA in 206 2/3 innings, basically a full season of work.
 
“He's been the guy who has been the most consistent,” said manager Pete Mackanin, referring to the team’s group of young starters. “He's given us what we wanted. He's had some hiccups, but I expect him to pitch well every time he goes out. I feel confident in him.”
 
At 6-4, 250 pounds, Eickhoff has a workhorse body. He is the only Phillies’ starter to remain healthy this season and the club clearly wants him to stay that way, both for the remainder of the season and the future.
 
That was the explanation that Eickhoff received in the dugout from Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure when he was removed from Wednesday night’s game after just six innings. Eickhoff had a 4-2 lead at the time and had thrown just 71 pitches thanks to his cruising through the first five innings on one hit.
 
“A little bit, yeah,” said the pitcher when asked if he was surprised by the quick hook. “But once Mac and Pete made it clear what was going on, it’s a no-brainer. It’s part of the game. I was just happy to get through it and be done and be healthy.
 
“What they said is they want me to make every start this year and be healthy. You can’t complain about that. I’m very lucky and very fortunate to be healthy this year.”
 
So the Phillies are managing Eickhoff's workload. Makes sense with this being a rebuilding season.

But Mackanin had a different explanation for his decision to remove Eickhoff. The pitcher gave up a two-run home run in the sixth inning as his problems in that inning (12.32 ERA as opposed to 2.64 in the first five) continued. Mackanin said he yanked Eickhoff because he wanted to make sure that nothing “snowballed” on the pitcher and he left the game with a good vibe.
 
“He pitched well,” Mackanin said. “I got him out of there after the sixth because I wanted him out on a positive note. He's been struggling in the sixth inning and after that, so I didn't want him going back out there. We have three guys I have confidence in in (Edubray) Ramos, (Hector) Neris and (Jeanmar) Gomez, so it worked out for us.”
 
Mackanin was asked whether the Phillies have Eickhoff on an innings limit. He is up to 155 2/3 innings. He threw 184 1/3 innings last season.
 
“No, no, not at all,” Mackanin said. “I don't know how many pitches he threw. Did he even have 80 pitches? I wanted him out on a positive note. We won, so I guess I made the right move. That's how it works, right?”
 
Ramos, Neris and Gomez protected the lead, though Gomez walked a tightrope and gave up a run in garnering his 34th save.
 
Neris allowed a leadoff walk in the eighth then got three quick outs. Since the All-Star break, he has pitched 18 1/3 innings and given up just one run. He has walked two and struck out 26. Pretty good.
 
After being outscored 18-1 in their previous two games against the White Sox and Cardinals, the Phillies’ bats finally produced some timely hitting. Tommy Joseph had a double, his 17th homer and scored two runs. Aaron Altherr had a pair of RBI singles and scored a run. Freddy Galvis doubled home a run and Cesar Hernandez homered.
 
Joseph’s homer in the top of the sixth against James Shields gave the Phils a 4-0 lead. Eickhoff hasn’t had many of those.
 
“He gets no run support,” Joseph said. “To be able to do that for him is huge.”
 
Eickhoff gave up three hits, including a two-run homer to Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the sixth, but he did limit the damage and got out of the inning with the lead. His handling of adversity in that inning was encouraging but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the game.
 
Mackanin said he wanted Eickhoff to go home with a good feeling.
 
Eickhoff said the team was looking out for his health.
 
Whatever the real reason was, they both made sense in a rebuilding season.

Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez sets K's mark, helps Marlins snap Royals' win streak

Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez sets K's mark, helps Marlins snap Royals' win streak

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez pitched seven innings and appeared to avoid a serious injury when he tweaked his right leg on his final pitch Wednesday night, helping the Miami Marlins beat Kansas City 3-0 to snap the Royals' nine-game winning streak.

Fernandez (13-7) pulled up after striking out Christian Colon to end the seventh, and rubbed his right knee before limping to the dugout.

The Marlins pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the seventh, and no injury was announced. Fernandez was laughing with teammates in the dugout in the ninth inning and joined in the postgame celebration on the field.

His nine strikeouts increased his season total to 213, breaking the Marlins record of 209 set by Ryan Dempster in 2000. Fernandez ended a career-worst three-game losing streak.

He also had the Marlins' first two hits, hiking his average to .286, and improved to 27-2 at Marlins Park.

Fernando Rodney pitched around two singles and walk for his 25th save and eighth with Miami.

Dillon Gee (5-7) took the loss (see full recap).

Cardinals tag deGrom in win over Mets
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty homered off Mets starter Jacob deGrom, powering the St. Louis Cardinals past New York 8-1 Wednesday night.

Carpenter set the tone, hitting a leadoff home run in the first inning. The Cardinals went on to win for the seventh time in nine games.

Piscotty and Yadier Molina each had three of the Cardinals' season high-tying 19 hits.

Carlos Martinez (12-7) gave up one run and four hits over eight innings. He also got two hits himself.

Roughed up for the second straight start, deGrom (7-7) allowed five runs on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was tagged for a career-worst eight runs and 13 hits in his previous outing against San Francisco (see full recap).

Rays overcome Ortiz's 30th HR in comeback win
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- David Ortiz hit his 30th home run in the first inning, but the Tampa Bay Rays came back from a three-run deficit to beat Boston 4-3 in 11 innings Wednesday night and prevent the Red Sox from taking sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Luke Maile doubled with two out in the 11th and scored after Red Sox pitcher Heath Hembree (4-1) dropped a throw to first base on Kevin Kiermaier's grounder.

Brad Boxberger (2-0) got the win after one inning of relief.

Boston has won 10 of its last 13 games and remained tied in first with Toronto after the Blue Jays lost 8-2 to the Angels.

Bidding to become the majors' first 18-game winner, Rick Porcello allowed Evan Longoria's tying homer in the eighth before leaving with 7 2/3 innings pitched. It was Longoria's 30th homer (see full recap).