CHESTER, Pa. – For 42 minutes on Sunday, it was the Freddy Adu Show at PPL Park. And then, just like that, the show got cancelled.
After playing what he called “his best game with the Union by far,” Adu hit the showers early after getting shown his second yellow card for a simulation in the penalty box.
Down a man for the entire second half, the Union ended up dropping a gut-wrenching 3-2 decision to the rival Red Bulls.
“I was very disappointed because I thought things were going well up to that point,” Adu told MLSsoccer.com. “We had them on their heels. It was the best we played all season and I really thought we'd pull out a win.”
WATCH: Adu's strong outing cut short
According to Adu, he’s never before been whistled for diving in the box and said it was a “50-50 call.” On the play, he tried to split two defenders before falling to the ground. Replays show he was barely touched, if at all.
“I was bracing myself to get hit and Dax [McCarty] played it smart and didn’t hit me,” explained Adu, whose first yellow came for a tackle from behind in the fifth minute. “But I was off balance at that point because I was bracing to get hit. Then when I went down I wasn’t complaining to the ref or complaining to anyone. I just wanted to get right back up and the next thing I know the red card comes out.”
Typically one not to mince his words, Union manager Peter Nowak only said that he “doesn’t know what to think anymore” and “let the professionals assess the referee’s decision.”
What he talked more about was Adu’s exceptional first-half performance, which featured the kind of crafty ballhandling Union fans have yet to see from the midfielder during his short time in Philly.
“We all want to see Freddy play like that,” Nowak said. “He feels comfortable and he’s moving inside and taking shots and he’s not afraid to pull plays, 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.”
Adu said that Nowak had stressed to him throughout the week that he needs to come inside and be the second playmaker behind the frontline. And the 22-year-old midfielder felt he was able to do that against a strong Red Bulls defense that was coming off three straight shutouts.
Adu helped break New York's shutout streak when his cross found the head of Pajoy in the 31st minute.
“I felt good, my body felt great and my teammates were finding me in the right spots,” Adu said. “Danny Mwanga battled his butt off, Pajoy’s movement today was great. It made it a lot easier for me to slip in and be a second playmaker. Guys would just suck defenders through them and then at the last moment I would pop in and be wide open.”
Because of how well he played, the Sons of Ben chanted Adu’s name as he walked off the field following his ejection, even though they know his two cards would put the club in a serious hole. Adu called that show of support “amazing.”
“For me, when I get a reception like that from the fans, I really feed off that,” Adu said. “When they see the effort and applaud you for it, it makes you want to go out there and give that kind of effort week in and week out. And that’s exactly what I’ll look to do.
“Even though we lost today, this can be a pretty good turning point for our season.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIGHLIGHTS: NY 3, PHI 2