CHESTER, Pa. — It’s been a long road, but Freddy Adu is finally back where his professional career started over seven years ago: Major League Soccer.
The Union made Adu the newest member of their club on Friday, announcing the signing of the 22-year-old attacking midfielder and then introducing him at a press conference at PPL Park. As the sound of clicking cameras filled the room, Adu was all smiles sitting next to the first man who coached him at the professional level, Union manager Peter Nowak.
Adu has trudged a tough road in the past few years. The Ghanaian-born midfielder signed with Benfica in 2007, but after making only 11 appearances for the club he began what would be a three year saga of loan spells that included AS Monaco (France), Belenenses Lisbon (Portugal), Aris (Greece) and Caykur Rizespor (Turkey).
The US international has finally landed back in MLS, where he appeared in 98 matches and scored 13 goals from 2004-2007 with DC United and Real Salt Lake before making the move to Europe.
Adu takes positives from his time abroad.
“Obviously, going on loan every year for a young player [is tough],” said Adu. “It’s difficult, but I’ve had great experiences. I have taken some good things from wherever I’ve ended up. [Some situations] did not work out as well as I thought it would, but I thought I did well. I have had a lot of different experiences over the years and I’m trying to put everything together. Nothing happens overnight, you are always going to be learning.”
The learning experience has helped him grow as a player and as a person.
“I think I am a better player today than when I left MLS four years ago. Maturing helps a lot. As the years go on, you get older and start to put things together.”
Adu, who comes to Philadelphia as the home stretch of the season approaches, has his sights set on helping the Union make the playoffs. The club stands in second place with 33 points, only one point behind the Columbus Crew (34) and three ahead of New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, who each have 30.
Adu’s attacking abilities can help the club improve after the sudden loss of leading goal-scorer Carlos Ruiz to Veracruz of the Mexican top flight last week.
“Whether it’s making an impact on the bench or being in the game,” said the Union’s new signing, ”I’m ready and I’m here to listen learn and help the team in any way possible.”
The midfielder is also looking to improve his chances of getting more time on the field with the US National Team.
One of the first statements Adu made during the press conference was to thank former US manager Bob Bradley for giving him an opportunity to represent the US in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup; a tournament in which he impressed many different clubs.
However, Jurgen Klinsmann is now the manager of the national team, and with his new youth movement in place, Adu sees more opportunities to represent his country in the future.
“I had a talk with Jurgen before camp and also when I was in camp,” said Adu. “His advice really helped me make this decision [to come back to MLS]. He told me that no matter where I end up, if I am playing and playing well, I will get my chance.”
Adu has been capped 17 times for the senior national team. He contributed to the US side in the 2003 U-17 World Cup and captained the squad in the 2007 U-20 World Cup. He also helped the U-23 team qualify for the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, where he was again coached by Nowak.
After impressing with his play in this summer’s Gold Cup, Adu is poised to continue his recent success with the national team.
“As players your goal is always to play for the national team and represent your country,” said Adu. “But it’s one step at a time — you have to sort out your club situation and you have to be playing and making sure you are helping your team.”
Now that Adu has sorted out his club situation with the move to Philadelphia, he can get back to doing what he loves: playing the beautiful game.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to just play soccer,” Adu said with a grin. “That’s what I care about and that’s what I’ve always cared about. That’s what makes me happy.”