Adu Is Headed West in A Trade

Freddy Adu is traded along with veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando to Real Salt Lake for a major player allocation from MLS, reserve goalie Jay Nolly and future considerations.
Freddy Adu is traded along with veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando to Real Salt Lake for a major player allocation from MLS, reserve goalie Jay Nolly and future considerations. (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sooner or later, Freddy Adu was going to leave D.C. United and embark on a faraway adventure.

Most expected his next move to take him to Europe. Instead, he is headed to Salt Lake City.

United yesterday shipped its 17-year-old celebrity midfielder along with veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando to Real Salt Lake for reserve goalie Jay Nolly, a major player allocation and significant future considerations.

"It was not an easy decision," United President Kevin Payne said. "Freddy has been an important part of our team, but we saw an opportunity to do something for both him and for the future of our team."

The deal, formulated only in the last week, abruptly ended Adu's career in Washington after three up-and-down seasons. His signing at age 14 and his stay brought unprecedented exposure to United and MLS. But it also created headaches for Coach Peter Nowak, who tried to balance the needs of his team with the developmental requirements of a player who had been attracting interest from European clubs since he was 12 and whose $550,000 salary is more than five times the league average.

Adu had 11 goals and 17 assists in 87 regular season appearances and, in his rookie year, helped United win the 2004 championship. After making an impact almost strictly on offense his first two years, he worked hard on defense this past season and became a more well-rounded player

The relationship between Adu and Nowak, though, seemed to play a part in the trade. It hit a low point in October 2005, when the teenager complained about playing time. They mended things last winter and seemed to get along well this season, but in the end, Adu's growing frustration with being a wing player led him to request a trade.

In what turned out to be his final D.C. United appearance, Adu was inexplicably removed with 25 minutes left in United's 1-0 loss to New England in the Eastern Conference final.

"Freddy desired to play a different role than the one we offered here at D.C., so we hope this move can aid that wish," Nowak said in a prepared statement. He did not return phone messages seeking further comment.

Said Payne: "Freddy wanted to play central midfield or withdrawn forward. On our team, that's Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno" -- the league MVP and the team's all-time leading scorer, respectively -- "and that wasn't likely to happen."

Adu will be reunited with Salt Lake Coach John Ellinger, who oversaw Adu's development at the U.S. under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., before he signed with MLS. Ellinger plans to accommodate Adu's desire to play in a central role.

Adu did not answer his cellphone last night, and messages left with his agent, Richard Motzkin, were not returned. But one source who knows the player well and did not want to be identified, said: "He was destined to be an average player in D.C.'s system. It has nothing to do with Peter and Freddy's personalities, but sometimes a certain player's style doesn't fit with a certain team's approach. That's what happened here."


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