CHESTER, Pa. – Freddy Adu admitted he did not want to come off the field in the 62nd minute of Saturday’s game against Columbus.
But that was mainly because everything up to that point had gone so well for the Philadelphia Union midfielder, who was playing his first league game since Philly’s season opener on March 12.
“All is right with the world right now,” a smiling Adu said from the home locker room following the Union’s 1-0 victory over the Crew.
The best part for Adu – who had been out of commission for the Union while captaining the US U-23 Olympic qualifying team – was that he made the play that led to the game’s only goal, gathering a long ball on the left side in the 37th minute, dribbling directly at Crew defender Sebastien Miranda, cutting to the right and firing a ball into the box that hit the hand of Eric Gehrig.
Gehrig was whistled for the handball and Union midfielder Gabriel Gómez buried the ensuing penalty kick to give Philly the lead – and eventual win.
“It felt great [to be back], especially in a winning effort,” Adu said. “I’m glad I was part of the play that led to the goal as well. My goal this year is to be an impact player for the team – not just to be play well. I want to be involved a lot more offensively and going forward. From that perspective, it felt good today.”
Sometimes his dribbling didn’t lead anywhere, but Adu was certainly confident possessing the ball and aggressively attacking defenders. For the 22-year-old midfielder, that’s a part of the game he really wants to build on following a couple of strong performances at Olympic qualifying.
“The key is you always have to be unpredictable,” he said. “Keep the defender always guessing. … That’s what you have to do as a player. You don’t want them to get up on you and restrict your space. For me, I like to get the ball and face up. I don’t want to play with my back to the goal.”
Adu, who played mostly on the left wing Saturday, credited the movement off the ball as a reason why he and the other midfielders were able to get isolated in one-on-one situations with defenders. Having that kind of space also allowed Adu to do well in distributing, particularly with a left-footed cross that found the head of Keon Daniel in the 57th minute.
Daniel’s header went just over the crossbar.
“He did well in getting into wide spots and getting the ball and taking guys on,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. “I thought he did a good job of getting in crosses and being dangerous on the wings.”
Adu now hopes he’ll continue to create more dangerous situations for the Union, starting with Saturday’s road game vs. Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET; The Comcast Network).
“I just want to be an impact player,” Adu reiterated. “It’s important to me. I did that with U-23s and I want to build on that. … The goal was always to transition what I was doing with the U-23s back here in Philadelphia and so far it’s good. But it can always be better.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.