CHESTER, Pa. – Freddy Adu knows an MLS Cup contender when he sees one.
The 22-year-old midfielder, who won MLS Cup 2004 with D.C. United, feels that he can repeat the feat this year with the Philadelphia Union. Their road to MLS Cup starts on Sunday night against the Houston Dynamo (5 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“We want to make it all the way,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday afternoon after practice. “If we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out fighting. And that’s just how we are and that’s how it’s going to be. Plain and simple.
“A lot of people say that we have a lot of inexperienced young guys on the team, but there’s a good and bad to it. The good is that it’s almost like there’s no pressure. You go in and play like any other big game, rather than saying ‘wow it’s the playoffs.’ Just relax and play.”
Many are expecting Adu to start Sunday’s first leg against Houston. The question is whether Union manager Peter Nowak will opt for a 4-5-1 with Adu playing behind Sebastién Le Toux or instead go with a 4-4-2 featuring Adu playing in the midfield behind Le Toux and Danny Mwanga.
Based on the 11 MLS matches he has appeared in since his arrival in August, Adu has his personal preference.
“Right behind the lone striker, right in the hole in between the other team’s defenders and midfielders,” he said. “Pop up in different places and have the whole field to work with and not just be on one sideline or the other. I feel you don’t have a lot of space to create and be as dangerous as you can be.”
He admits that joining the team in midseason has made it “difficult to kind of just settle in with the rest of your teammates right away.” The constant shifting around in search of the ideal position is something that’s usually handled in preseason.
And to complicate matters, Adu has been fighting through a right ankle sprain which has slowed him down somewhat, although he says “it’s not starting to be a problem anymore.” On Saturday he admitted that while the ankle continues to heal, it’s not 100 percent and still gets sore.
But he says he plans on being a man and fighting through it. That’s what Union players and citizens of Philadelphia do.
“It’s what I love about this team — we fight and the fighting spirit is there. That’s all Philadelphians there. That’s just how it is in this city. Fans love it, I love it and I’ve really embraced that and it’s really made me a better player, too.”