Clearly, Freddy Adu’s public appeal for playing time isn’t going to work with DC United coach Peter Nowak. So, why speak, and why now?
Freddy Adu, who has four goals and six assists this season, spoke out about his playing time in 2005 yesterday to assembled media. He’s getting impatient about what he perceives as a lack of playing time, and is looking at other options, most likely to try and get himself dealt to another MLS team.
In quotes attributed to him, Adu said he was frustrated that he wasn’t playing more after his player of the week performance at Real Salt Lake. He said this to the media yesterday:
"It’s funny because I’ve been playing so well in practice," he said. "I felt so good at training, but come game time, I’m sitting on the bench. I’m just like, ‘Man, it [stinks]’ That’s the kind of thing that is out of your hands. You can’t really do anything about it. It’s out of your control. All you can control is you and what you do. It [stinks] that I’m in this situation."
He also said yesterday:
"It’s frustrating at times when you think you’ve earned a chance to play on the field and you’re over there sitting on the bench. That’s not the kind of player I am. I’m the kind of player who wants to be out there on the field and needs to contribute every minute of every game. I’m not saying I should play 90 minutes every single game, but I am saying that I should definitely play a lot more than I’ve gotten to play."
But is it like Adu describes? Not quite.
Even in the match at Salt Lake, Nowak offered this critique of Adu’s positioning, particularly in the first half, to the Washington Post:
"We didn’t create much in the first half because we didn’t play forward and Freddy stayed too much as a second playmaker," Nowak said. "We need him to be up top so he can use his speed and ability to go at people. . . . Great finish–he kept his composure and made sure he put it in."
The article continues with perspective from Adu:
Adu, who had served as the playmaker in the suspended Gomez’s absence during a 4-1 victory over the MetroStars on Saturday, acknowledged his positioning error, saying that Nowak "didn’t want me that deep. He said he needed me up top to get some offense."
But Adu got the start three days later in the home match that followed that, a 2-1 loss to the MetroStars, though Nowak was questioned for taking Adu out for defender John Wilson in the second half with the team trailing. At the time, Nowak noted more problems with Adu’s positioning, despite Adu earning a free kick that lead to United’s only goal, taking a foul and earning a yellow card call on former United defender Jeff Agoos and forcing two quality saves from goalkeeper Tony Meola (a kick-save and a diving save of a blistering 22-yard shot).
From our MASR match report:
Nowak, with his team trailing by a goal, inexplicably pulled Adu for defender John Wilson in the 77th minute, offering criticism of Adu’s play and positioning while saying that Wilson could offer more going forward.
"Freddy was sometimes too deep, sometimes too far away," Nowak said. "As I said, it’s still our decision to make and we decided to go this way."
In that match, Adu had started up top, and then was moved to the outside before being taken out.
So, despite a player of the week nod, which came largely for his performance against a bottom dweller in the Western Conference, Nowak pointed out problems Adu was having, and seemingly, because Adu didn’t respond in the MetroStars match to Nowak’s critique, he found the bench for a meaningless regular season finale.
Adu says now:
"It becomes very, very, very, very tempting to look ahead and, as a matter of fact, I’m doing that right now," he said. "I always have to make the best decision for myself first, and I’m just looking into things right now. . . . I’ve been in this league for two years and it’s just been the same. I love the guys on this team. I don’t want to leave. I’m not saying I am going to leave — I’m not — but you always have to look ahead and see what the best situation is for yourself first."
Adu’s mom chimed in to the Post, saying the agents "are looking into" a possible move. Seems like some orchestration is going on–not necessarily by Freddy himself, but if it’s orchestrated or not, it’s being done without full knowledge, so let’s illuminate.
Prior to the start of the season, Adu mentioned that positioning was something he needed to work on. Curiously, the recent criticism by Nowak of Adu pertains to positioning. He started the regular season as a reserve, but had earned a start by the team’s third match against Columbus. He came off the bench for United’s next two matches, then had a player of the week performance against Columbus that began a streak of his starting three of four matches before he left to play for the U20s in Holland, missing United’s next four league matches.
He says because he isn’t playing regularly, he’s "screwed" in trying to play for the national team, but admittedly, he didn’t have such a great U20 tournament.
He said this after the US U20s fell to Italy 3-1 in the 2nd round of the FIFA World Youth Championships:
"I’ll be the first one to stand here and tell you that I didn’t play my best and I was terrible this tournament. I’m going to just go back, work harder and get to where I know I can get to. Hopefully, next time I can help the team out a lot more."
Based on that, Nowak’s criticism of him regarding his positioning, and some up-and-down performances, has he earned a callup to the full national team?
Following his return, he played the second half at Chicago, earning a penalty call in the loss. He then started seven straight matches of meaning (six league and one Open Cup match; he came off the bench to start the second half in the friendly against Chelsea) before getting hurt.
After missing three regular season matches with the injury, Adu came off the bench late in the Open Cup against FC Dallas match and converted a penalty, but couldn’t prevent Dallas from advancing. He came off the bench in the team’s next match against New England in the 87th minute before getting three consecutive league starts. He came off the bench for the team’s next league match against Colorado, and then started three more times in a row, playing 82, 90 and 77 minutes before going the second half in the regular season finale.
Last season he started 14 of 30 regular season matches in which he played (five goals, three assists).
What about the implication that he wants out of DC? Justified?
Based on the evidence?
When healthy and available, Adu’s in the mix. Nowak knows Adu’s a dangerous player and has found ways to get him on the field in the right situations. However, Nowak, with his team as healthy as one can be going into the playoffs, has difficult decisions whether, where and when to play Adu.
Up top? And not have Jaime Moreno and Santino Quaranta on the field? Not playing here. Plus, there’s got to be some deserved minutes for the improved Jamil Walker.
Behind the strikers? And take out Christian Gomez? No chance, even though Adu is probably best either here or up top, where he has a chance to run at people and feel at his most involved.
Use Adu for Ben Olsen or Brian Carroll? And then you weaken the area where United’s so successful at breaking up the opposition’s attacks. Adu is capable of this, but it’s more grunt work than he’d like.
On the outside of midfield? Both Josh Gros and Dema Kovalenko are the kind of hard working players Nowak seems to love, and Adu can get lost outside at times, but if he’s going to find a regular space in the United lineup and not be a reserve, it’s going to be here, and for Kovalenko most likely, but don’t look for it to happen.
To kick off the season, Adu only started four of his first nine league matches. However, after returning from the U20s, he started six of his next seven matches before injury, and then after coming off the bench for an US Open Cup and a regular season match, started six of his next seven before United’s last regular season match against Columbus. Breaking that down, he started 16 of 25 regular season matches in which he was available. Discounting the first stretch of matches where he didn’t start in three of his first four regular season matches, when he was available and near 100 percent health, he started 15 of 19 league matches this year, including 12 of his last 15 matches.
It’s not surprising Adu would say he wants to play all the time. Who doesn’t when they’re healthy? Who doesn’t when they have the talent he does (though it’s not been used to its full potential yet)? But to suggest he’d be interested in playing elsewhere after this season? For the most part, the "father figure"–as Adu described Nowak as being prior to the start of the season–is doing fine in handling the teen-star, and the teen-star is reacting as one does when things don’t quite appear to be going his way.
Not getting enough starts? The evidence doesn’t appear to support what Adu says.
Sounds like Adu wants to run away just because things aren’t going the way he–or someone close to him, perhaps–thinks it should be. He, and those around him, know he’s wanted elsewhere, wanted somewhere where he’ll be the featured star in a mega-media market. He may not be able to go overseas just yet, but he can get himself closer to the TRL studios in New York.
Though petulant, it’s a bit understandable for a 16-year old to say. But for him to speak out now with the team trying to focus on the playoffs isn’t the right play.
Seems like orchestral maneuvers in the dark.