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Season review: Freddy Adu

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Editor’s note: At the end of the first two Philadelphia Union seasons, we posted a series of end of the season reviews of every Union player. Over the next several weeks, PSP continues with a review of the 2012 season.

“I was told essentially that I was going to be given the keys to the car and in my opinion that really hasn’t been the case. When I came, I thought I was going to have more of a central role with the team, and I’ve been playing on the [outside midfield] ever since I’ve came here. I don’t mind it, it’s just not what I was told,” Freddy Adu said in late August.

Confirming what most already suspected, Freddy Adu thought he was going to be the Union’s offensive savior by default. And, to be fair, the young midfielder’s expectations were only delusional to a point.

Yes, the Union needed offensive help. But no, they were not without other options. And on the strength of his 2011 resume, it was Michael Farfan who was wheelman when the Union took the field against Portland in March. Few could argue that the Union’s dazzling young star had earned his chance. Despite being given the same role that was reviving his reputation at the international level, Freddy Adu wandered the right sideline looking every bit a talented yet selfish player with the defensive workrate of a sleepy Carlos Ruiz.

In other words, he was living up to expectations.

In November 2011, Adu used the magic of a “wonderful old bistro” and a nicoise salad to convince ESPN’s Leander Schaerlaeckens that it wasn’t Adu’s fault his European adventure had been more Landon Donovan than Clint Dempsey. Blaming a collection of situational variables, Adu managed to prove with mathematical certainty that the stateside detour in his plan to play in England or Spain by age 25 was due to uncontrollable interference. And it’s true that coaching changes and less than ideal situations (or moving to Arsenal if you’re a striker) often stall the careers of players who otherwise appear ready to break out.

The difference for Adu is that there has never been any evidence to suggest he is a star. His best performances have consistently come in short bursts as a member of the US U-21 team, and they’ve never been as the centerpiece of teams that overachieve. In other words, Freddy Adu is not—and has not been—a difference-maker.

But when you say you expect to be in England by age 25, a difference-maker is exactly what you think you are.

Unfortunately, the games in which Freddy Adu made a positive difference in 2012 can be counted on one hand.

1. At Chivas USA, April 21. Adu cheekily backheeled the winner past a hapless Chivas defense after Michael Farfan’s absurd dribble-drive created havoc in the box. Despite scoring the winner, however, Adu was left off MLSsoccer.com’s stars of the game list in favor of Farfan, whose ball skills and “tireless defense” were highlighted.

2. Vs. New York, May 13. A spectacular first half performance came to an end after 43 minutes when Adu was sent off with his second yellow card of the match. It was a poor, poor call by Jorge Gonzalez, but Adu’s 5th minute tackle to earn the first card was just as silly. Adu’s creative abilities were on full display, and his sumptuous cross set up the Union’s first tally (when Lio Pajoy can score off your cross, you know it was a good one). The “Freddy Adu, Superstar” musical was prepping for Broadway by the time Kenny Cooper put the Red Bulls ahead for good in this one.

3.Vs. Toronto, July 8. The Union were rampant against a listless Toronto side, and Adu was at the heart of it all. He scored the second and put the Canadian defense under constant pressure.

4. Vs. New England, September 1. In a game so bad television cameras begged their operators to shut them down to end the misery, Adu was active and involved. His three shots and one shot on target were both his second-highest totals for the season.

5. Vs. Houston, September 23. Led by Raymon Gaddis, the Union smacked around a normally-stout Houston defense. Adu produced a fine near post finish and drilled home a penalty before leaving with an injury.

At no other time was Freddy Adu more than an overpaid set piece specialist for the Philadelphia Union in 2012. And, to be honest, number four is a bit of a stretch. Calling anybody who participated in that September 1 match a contributor is on par with calling any tweet, cough or rumor you hear a news story.

Three goals from open play, only one against a team that wasn’t redecorating the bottom floor of their conference in preparation for a long stay. And that statistic doesn’t do justice to how disappointing Adu’s 2012 season was. John Hackworth brought in a 4-3-3 that moved Adu up the field into the exact spot he excelled in at the international level. Adu’s response was quotes like the one that opened this article and enough locker room mayhem to fuel sky-is-falling reports from Philly.com.

High point 

It pretty much has to be that first half performance in New York, right? There were quite a few “…is this about to be a high point?” moments, but, much like how you feel when it turns out the pretty girl’s boyfriend is sitting at the barstool behind you, those moments usually led to swift returns to Earth.

Low point

It has to be his absence from the final two matches of the season. The KC omission was dubbed a mysterious “coach’s decision.” The New York one was tied to the aforementioned reports that Adu was a locker room disruption and wouldn’t work in this town again. For a player who promised to be a young leader, captained some of his Union teammates on the U-21 national team, and thought combining “I’m only 23” and “so much experience” was on par with combining whiskey and coke for the first time, being anything less than a leader was unacceptable.


…He’s only 23…


He isn’t getting better. And yes, sigh, he’s only 23. But any other player with seven years of experience—including a run in Europe—would be expected to show maturity and consistency. Adu has (slightly, but significantly) improved his defense, he moves well when he wants to, and he can pick out a sweet pass on those rare occasions when his eyes aren’t admiring the flash of his Adidas during a stepover. But maturity and consistency have never been features of Freddy Adu’s game.

And they are every bit as absent now as the day he joined MLS as a 14-year-old.


In England or Spain by age 25? Unlikely. Unless it’s in a non-soccer capacity.

All signs suggest it’s time for Freddy Adu to move on from Philadelphia. The Union have a young core to build around, and Adu’s price tag and personal ambition don’t seem to mesh well with a team-first philosophy. There are certainly some MLS teams that could handle his contract and wouldn’t mind the added press coverage that comes from adding Adu’s name to the roster (though even Adu’s most ardent supporters/apologists have to be wondering how many clothes their emperor is really wearing at this point).

It’s impossible to tell where Adu will spend his time in 2013. While it’s easy to bash his play, little is known about how badly Adu’s relationship with the team has been damaged. If he’s still a Union player next season, it’s hard to imagine him playing a major role. As one of the last vestiges of the Nowak regime that the team wants to pretend never happened, Freddy Adu is deceiving himself if he believes he isn’t tied to his first professional coach at the hip in the minds of many.

It’s most likely Freddy Adu will be taking whatever keys he already has, putting them into the ignition of his own car, and driving on to the next stop on his journeyman’s career. He has the talent to be a professional soccer player, but at this point little more is clear.

One certainty is that three years from now somebody will be sitting down with Freddy Adu for lunch at something like a gloriously baroque pub. They will ask him whether it’s finally time to say that he didn’t live up to the hype. Adu will say: I’m only 25.

Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; G: Goals; A: Assists; SOG: Shots on Goal; SOG/S%: Percentage of Shots that are on Goal; G/SOG%: Percentage of Shots on Goal Converted; SC%: Scoring Percentage; G/90min: Goals per 90 minutes; Hm G: Home Goals; Rd G: Road Goals; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    Haha. I don’t want to sound like I am defending Adu, but he certainly has strengths. Wasn’t he 4th in the league in “big” chances created or something.
    I want him gone too, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he moves somewhere in the MLS and starts producing either.

  2. So what will it take to get rid of him? I suspect some of our dwindling allocation money will have to be thrown in.

    • What will it take?
      Sit him.
      Sit him.
      Sit him some more.
      He won’t be able to take it, he’ll beg to leave, and by July he’ll be gone. I’m thinking Russia.

  3. In writing Ray Gaddis’ season review then reading Adam’s excellent recap of Mr. Adu, the contrast between the two players is staggering. Selfless vs. Selfish, Substance vs. Hype, Hustle vs. Lolly-Gag.
    If Freddy is wearing a Union jersey in 2013, it’s only because the Hackworth and Co. were unable to find a club to take on Freddy’s messy, bloated contract. In that case, I hope the team sends him home and his prima donna antics never again do harm inside the Union locker room.

    • Gordon Strachan says:

      Conversely everytime one of our “great hustlers” makes an impatient play that gives up possession, I want to lose my mind

      We could easily fill this roster with young hustlers immediately out of college but the product would be crap.

      (That’s not directed at Gaddis he’s a hidden gem)

      • And Freddy’s not guilty of conceding possession at the most inopportune of times?

      • Guys,guys, can’t we all get along? Can’t we agree that Adu is overhyped, and outside of those rare free kicks into the box (not corners,he blows something fierce on those), he just hasn’t contributed. And yes, the kids make for a fine track team some days but look almost surprised to see a ball at their feet, responding by kicking it out of bounds or to any player not in a blue shirt. Has a lot to do with the fact the Union sucked last year. 16th is not “talent laden”. 16th blows. We showed it. Adu and kids learning to be pros were why (yes, and Nowak).

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Adu had his moments last year. As far as talent, I believe he is the best on the club. Unfortunately, he did not combine intelligent play with that talent. In his defense, I will say that the quality surrounding him, on the pitch, made it very difficult for Freddy to “create”. That said, a player of Adu’s “caliber” should have been able to make things happen. He MIGHT have value as a highly placed CAM, or CF, just behind LeToux and Jack Mac. It would allow him to send the two in on goal. With Marfan and Cruz flanking him, things could move forward. Parke’s addition frees up Okugo to claim his CDM role, providing a strong presence behind Adu. Unless we are bringing in a talented 10, it would be foolish to transfer Adu.

    • The problem with just keeping Adu is his contract. As he ended last season in Hackworth’s doghouse, he may not even be in the starting eleven anymore. That’s a big salary for a back-up.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Forces me to question Hackworth a bit. No reason why you don’t play him. He actually looked pretty good towards the end. We have no better option. Marfan should be utilized on the outside and, in my opinion, is not as good as Adu.

      • Not really, Freddy has a pattern of this. He has been bounced around from team to team. Before he came to the Union he was sitting on the bench in 2nd division Turkish soccer. Too much smoke for there not to be fire.

      • Adu was never sitting on the bench in 2nd division Turkey. You literally made that up.

      • nope didn’t. He spent most of his time in Turkey coming off the bench. and mind you that was his 4th loan to another team in 4 years.

      • Nope, you’re completely and utterly wrong. Adu started every game their, and they’re still obsessed with him over at Rizespor. He left a strong mark in Turkey, which is what lead to his current training at Galatasaray.

      • there*

        It does bring to mind the question though of why some people would just make stuff up/lie in order to bash a player. Pretty weird, imo.

      • good hope he stays there

  5. Gordon Strachan says:

    I’m not sure where the expectation of Freddy Adu as goal scorer comes from, in my view he has always been a creator of chances for his teammates first. A bit harder to measure than tallying shots on goal and goals per game.

    • I think Freddy himself adds that expectation when he tries to take on 2 players all by himself, does 2 jillion stepovers and runs straight at goal.

  6. Take a look at Freddy’s highlight reel and you will see one alarming trend – lots of unfinished opportunities as a result of a lack of quality forwards.
    His U21 performance shows what he might be capable of.
    I still wonder how much of his on field apparent lack of hustle is mental vs. physical. Perhaps he just doesn’t have the engine that LeToux possesses. I hope that Hack will be able to fix whatever off-pitch issues were occurring, find a way to utilize his obvious play-making skills while covering for his lack of defensive abilities. Then, resign him next year for a new contract that matches his actual performance…say in the $100-$150k range. If that was his salary, I think a lot less people would be calling for his head.
    Also – Freddy needs to fire his agent and hire Stefani Miglioranzi.

    • +1 on the lack of finishing the chances he tries to create. I have always felt that freddy plays balls that no one even tries to run onto. I wonder if le toux had been running at some of the balls he played whether we would feel the same. Freddy has one fatal flaw for playing in philly and that is his inability to put his head down and just play. He is always complaining and taking plays off. He is a lot like mario ballotelli without the absolute flashes of brilliant play that make him almost tolerable.

    • I guess my reply is that Freddy’s highlight reel is pretty short, perhaps because he often appears to be trying to make highlight reel plays when a simple, quick pass is the order of the day.

  7. #1 in MLS in big chances created per minute, while being played out of position to boot. Turned down higher profile teams to sign w/ Union based on Nowak’s promise to play him in the one and only role he actually *has* consistently played fairly well at(youth level; USMNT against Spain, Argentina, Holland, Mexico; Turkey & Portugal, etc.).

    The Union instead play him in a role he’s *never* played consistently well in. Which is fine, but be honest about that up front, even if it means not signing him (because face it, he’s not consistently good enough – never has been – to make you happy played out wide).

    Up and down season for sure – no way he lived up to his salary – but this is a hit piece, plain & simple.

    • We played that dude everywhere except goal and he only managed 2 1/2 good games. It always seems to be everyone’s fault but Freddy. after 7 years in pro soccer you would have thought one coach would have gotten it right.

    • Does anybody have a more detailed description of Big Chances beyond what is on the Opta website? Are penalty kicks/corner kicks into the box/free kicks Big Chances? I’m not trying to knock anybody’s argument here, just curious about what this stat really means since it keeps coming up.

  8. Adu and half of his annual salary for allocation money. Let’s Nowak his butt.

    Also, can we keep Marfan at RM? He’s so much more effective there. Hand Torres the CAM keys and if it doesn’t work sign a DP in the summer.

  9. The difficult thing with Adu is that he really can only play one position effectively and that’s an advanced role in central midfield. However, he’s too inconsistent and wants to have a free role which is a luxury that few teams in the world can really afford.

    So in order to put him in the line-up, you compromise and put him on the wing where he just doesn’t have the speed to be effective. There’s just too much space that a defender can give him some space and despite numerous stepovers, Freddy won’t be able to get by him.

    It’s tough to “hand the keys” to such an enigma like Freddy considering how inconsistent he is. Unless he can find some consistent form in MLS or in another professional league, he’ll always be remembered as a player who was a star when playing with his age group, but a disappointment at the professional level.

  10. “We feel Freddy Adu in the Union starting XI gives us the best chance to win” – 18 other MLS managers

  11. Though to be fair to Freddy I would happy with this 4-4-2 diamond:
    LT – Jack
    LB – Valdes – Soumare/Parke – Williams

  12. Should never wear the blue and gold again. Doesnt deserve it.
    America’s fail soccer experiment.
    Locker room cancer.
    Slow, short, weak.
    And on.
    And on…
    I hope to Palpatine he is sent packing.

  13. Gosh…I think I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the cocky little twit…kinda… If we can put aside the images of a gifted, flashy, petulant, precocious, diving cry baby 14 year-old…(wait, was that in 2004 or last season?)and try to evaluate him objectively on his performance this year as a high-priced 23 year-old DP, what can we conclude? I would say he is just another not quite ready for prime time young MLS player with an over-inflated ego and price tag. With all the other young(er), talented, hard-working, well-behaved, bargain priced players on this team who have had far fewer chances to prove themselves, why waste any more time or money? The LAST thing to do is try to build a f**king vehicle you can safely give him the keys to! As a parent and a fan I want to have players on teams that I can have my kids as well as their peers emulate and aspire to be. The Phillies have done that very well and so has the Union for the most part. Let’s let him go away and grow up…or not.

  14. Now i understand why Philly fans are the dumbest in the country per all sports. You can’t see talent in front of you if it smacked you in the face (Donovan Draft). Every argument you make about Adu, you can make about everyone on the team besides being lazy cause he totally is from time to time. Getting dispossessed, um WHO DOESN’T in a soccer match? Who doesn’t multiple times in a match? Look at wins v loses with Adu in and out of the lineup or taking out for a substitute with the Union. Why does he get to train with a monster Euro club, while two others get B-league squads? Why is Adu ranked fourth in chances created, yet the team did not make the playoffs? Who was praised by the Mexican analyst and coaches after the Gold Cup? It’s pretty obvious that the young kid has some work to do, but it appears your only gripe with him is jealously that he will have more money then you will ever have. He has more talent in his corn filled turd then anyone on that squad. Who is better Jack Mc? Mr. opps did I just score that by accident? Marfan? Ehh potential, but where is he at on the USMNT Scale? How many times has Marfan or JackMc’s name come from Klinssmann’s mouth compared to Freddy? EXACTLY… I havent seen him on anyone’s starting XI on americansoccernow lol…

    • Troll
      Large Giant
      Hit Dice: 6d8+36 (63 hp)
      Initiative: +2 (Dex)
      Speed: 30 ft.
      AC: 18 (–1 size, +2 Dex, +7 natural)
      Attacks: 2 claws +9 melee, bite +4 melee
      Damage: Claw 1d6+6, bite 1d6+3
      Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./10 ft.
      Special Attacks: Rend 2d6+9
      Special Qualities: Regeneration 5, scent, darkvision 90 ft.
      Saves: Fort +11, Ref +4, Will +3
      Abilities: Str 23, Dex 14, Con 23, Int 6, Wis 9, Cha 6
      Skills: Listen +5, Spot +5
      Feats: Alertness, Iron Will
      Climate/Terrain: Any land, aquatic, and underground
      Organization: Solitary or gang (2–4)
      Challenge Rating: 5
      Treasure: Standard
      Alignment: Always chaotic evil
      Advancement: By character class

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      Trolls speak Giant.


      Trolls have no fear of death: They launch themselves into combat without hesitation, flailing wildly at the closest opponent. Even when confronted with fire, they try to get around the flames and attack.

      Rend (Ex): If a troll hits with both claw attacks, it latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an additional 2d6+9 points of damage.

      Regeneration (Ex): Fire and acid deal normal damage to a troll.

      If a troll loses a limb or body part, the lost portion regrows in 3d6 minutes. The creature can reattach the severed member instantly by holding it to the stump.


  15. So what you nerds are saying is you dont really have a response to the topic at hand… Sorry cant really go to your level of geek-hood. But I’d love for ya to really bring it when it comes to the topic. Thanks again. Here’s something for you guys that may make your day.

    Philadelphia Comic Con 2013
    Wizard World Convention
    MAY 30-31 – JUNE 1-2, 2013

  16. Let’s see…5 goals(2PK), 1 lousy assist, nil defensive contribution, lots of lazy play, locker room problems, some really pretty balls mostly to Pajoy…That’s it? From the most talented player on the team? You are right Al. All that talent must have gone down the shitter in his “corn filled turd”. Talent, past achievements and reputation won’t buy you a SEPTA ticket out town in Philly.

    • Wow 11 less games then Marfan, and the kid had 4 more goals, to only 4 less assist. Funny! 🙂 Its really really sad that the forwards did not have better finishing smh…

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