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Said Payne: "Freddy wanted to play central midfield or withdrawn forward.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."
In Adu, Real Salt Lake got a marketing gem to boost ticket sales and strengthen the foundation of a struggling, two-year-old organization. How long the club will benefit from Adu's presence, however, is unclear and brings into question why it would give up so much to acquire him.
Adu recently returned from a two-week workout with Manchester United and hopes a European club will purchase his rights in the next year.
For United, the trade allowed it to acquire tools to upgrade its roster after two disappointing playoff efforts.
The major player allocation gives United the ability to sign an international player this winter. Nowak and technical director Dave Kasper recently returned from a scouting trip to Argentina and Brazil.
The future considerations acquired in the trade also are vital to United's plans. If Adu was to leave Real Salt Lake for Europe, it would receive compensation from MLS to acquire a new player. Under the conditions of yesterday's trade, United would receive a portion of Salt Lake's payout.
In addition, if Adu stays with Salt Lake through the end of the 2007 season, United would receive a draft pick. The better Adu plays, the better the draft pick would be.
Nolly, who will turn 25 next month, has played seven games in two seasons since being drafted in the second round from Indiana University. With United, he will back up Troy Perkins, who won the starting job from Rimando last spring and went on to win the MLS goalkeeper of the year award.
Nolly is scheduled to earn approximately $30,000 next season; Rimando about $110,000.
Rimando, 27, started 96 games for United between 2002 and '05 before making two appearances this year. He will compete with another ex-United player, Scott Garlick, for Salt Lake's starting job.