CHESTER, Pa. — Freddy Adu will be on the 18-man game-day roster when the Philadelphia Union host FC Dallas at PPL Park on Saturday (8 pm ET, 6abc).
That much Union manager Peter Nowak was forthcoming about on Friday during Adu’s introductory press conference. As for whether the club’s new marquee acquisition will make his Philly debut — well, that’s still up in the air.
“He’s ready to go,” Nowak said. “But there are another 20 guys in the locker room expecting to play as well.”
For his part, Adu, who was signed by Philly on Friday after four tumultuous years abroad, downplayed the emotional significance of playing his first MLS game since 2007, instead focusing on the ramifications of the contest for his new club.
FC Dallas (12-6-6) currently sit in second place in the Western Conference, six points behind the first-place LA Galaxy. The Union (8-5-9) are also in second place, but in the far less competitive Eastern Conference.
“I hope I get a chance to play,” Adu said. “Whatever the case, whether it’s tomorrow or the next week or the week after, I’m ready. You’ve got to be ready and on your toes. This is a big game against Dallas. I’m not thinking about walking out of the tunnel. I’m just concentrating on winning the game. Dallas is a pretty good team.”
If Adu does get the call, how he will fit into the club’s formation and scheme is still up in the air as well. Nowak noted Adu has become more of an all-around player than a natural goal-scorer since first bursting onto the scene seven years ago, but didn’t hint where he’d like to best utilize the midfielder’s skills.
“I think his natural position is the starting 11,” the Union manager said. “That’s his goal and our goal is to make that happen.”
Perhaps the most important part of Saturday’s game, according to Nowak, is that it coincides with the end of the international transfer window, a stretch of time that created uncertainty among the manager’s players and, in turn, a string of poor performances.
Over their past three games, the Union have a loss and two ties, with Nowak saying his team lacked energy and that the “ship was rocking very hard.” And the Union manager believes the decision to part ways with starters Jordan Harvey and Carlos Ruiz — as well as third-string goalkeeper Thorne Holder — played a role in that rough patch.
“I think it was a combination of things that led to us being lethargic,” Nowak said. “It was the mental part, not the physical part. Maybe my legs, lungs will do it, but what about my brain? People are asking questions like, ‘Who’s going to be cut next? What’s going to happen next?’ This is still a very inexperienced team.”
Whether or not the addition of Adu or the closing of the transfer window will rejuvenate Philly remains to be seen. But Nowak certainly hopes to see more fire from his club against a talented Dallas squad that includes, among other standouts, leading scorer Brek Shea, who showed Philly fans what he could do on Wednesday with an exceptional performance with the US national team against Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We need to find our energy back,” Nowak said. “We need to play the game we love to play. That was our strength for [the first] 19 games and the last three games we lacked that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.