CHESTER, Pa. -- Before a controversial red card ended his day in the 43rd minute, Freddy Adu played his best match yet for the Union on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.
Prior to a second yellow card for what was determined by the referee to be simulation in New York's penalty area, Adu was buzzing all over the field, running at defenders, creating chances for his teammates, and looking to score himself.
Adu told reporters afterward that he was granted permission by the technical staff to operate on his own terms.
“I had the freedom. The coaches told me I had the freedom to move inside and be unpredictable,” Adu said. “I didn’t feel like I was cornered to one side of the field and that’s always my favorite way to play -- when I’m not restricted. We had chances (Sunday) and the flood gates are going to open for our team.”
In just 43 minutes of action, Adu had 25 pass attempts. He was credited with 11 crosses and earned the assist on Lionard Pajoy's first goal. Of his three shots, one was saved by goalkeeper Ryan Meara and the other two were blocked by defenders. He had 6 "successful dribbles," or instances where he beat a defender with the ball at his feet. The most impressive of those dribbles was a nutmeg on Roy Miller that opened up a short crossing chance inside the box.
"[Manager] Peter [Nowak] kept telling me that I have the tendency to just hang out on the wing," Adu continued. "He told me not to just think about playing over there and that I had the freedom (to come inside). We had Michael Farfan playing (right back) and he’s a top-minded player and will push up. So I was going to move inside and be the second and third man. It worked great for us until the red card."
In those 43 minutes Sunday, Adu registered more shots and successful dribbles than he did in 90 minutes against Seattle. Defensively, Farfan was able to fill the vacated space on the right flank behind Adu.
One of the main topics at Adu's introductory press conference last season was the question of where he should play on the field. At the time, Roger Torres was healthy and making plays in the center of the pitch. Adu has so far spent the majority of his Union career on the wings, even with Torres unavailable and recovering from surgery.
With Adu's performance on Sunday, it would seem that the "free role" might be the best way to unlock his talents.
"He played really well," Nowak said after the game. "We all want to see Freddy play like that. He feels comfortable and he’s moving inside and taking shots and he’s not afraid to pull (the strings), which is important. He’s got confidence and he’s in very good form. Not only on the offensive side, but also on the defensive side."
WATCH: Adu sets up Pajoy goal