CHESTER, Pa. — Some were teammates with him at D.C. United. Others played with him while coming up through the US national team system. And then there were others that knew about him only through what they saw on TV or read on the Internet.
But judging by the laughter coming from their locker room long after their 2-2 draw with FC Dallas concluded this past Saturday, everyone on the Philadelphia Union seemed united about one thing: They are glad to have Freddy Adu on board.
“I think over the past four years abroad, he learned a lot and grew up a lot,” Union defender Danny Califf told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m really excited to see what he brings every day in training. He’s definitely a guy that can do uncommon things. And that’s the type of guy we need at the moment.”
Adu, who was signed by Philly last Friday, certainly didn’t show all of his “uncommon” abilities in his Union debut, playing 62 relatively ordinary minutes. But that was largely because he only had one day to train with the team before being thrust into the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Dallas.
If nothing else, though, his arrival created even more buzz than usual at boisterous PPL Park, while leading to a few more laughs and smiles in the locker room after Saturday’s contest.
“The fans are always tremendous, but adding Freddy made it even more exciting,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. “Once he’s more acclimated, he’ll fit even better. But we’re happy to have him and I think he’ll be a valuable addition to us.”
Carroll knows firsthand the kind of excitement Adu can bring to a team. The veteran midfielder is one of a handful of people in the Union organization that played for DC when Adu debuted there — to a wave of hysteria — as 14-year-old prodigy in 2004. Union youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian and team coordinator Josh Gros were also a part of that DC team, which Union manager Peter Nowak coached.
“It was a fan frenzy back then,” Carroll said. “It’s still as exciting and fun to be around and fun to play with him. Now with him being a little bit older but still a young guy with that much more experience — I think it’s exciting for us and the fans.”
Already, Carroll has noticed a “more confident, more talkative” Adu, whose newfound maturity will bode well for a Union club looking to make the playoffs in their second year of existence.
Carroll also believes the 22-year-old midfielder will soon unleash the same kind of attacking skills that first turned him into a star.
“He had the ability to turn, to go at people, go in the box and create space for himself, with and without the ball,” Carroll said. “He was able to score goals then, and I think he’ll be able to do it here now, too.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.