CHESTER, Pa. – It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth that the first questions directed at him during his end-of-season press conference were focused on Freddy Adu.
Few players seem to ignite more controversy than the Union forward – who, to put it kindly, has had a rocky one-and-a-half-year tenure in Philly.
But this week, Hackworth steered clear of revealing too much about what his plans may be involving Adu next season.
“I definitely think there’s a chance Freddy will be back,” Hackworth said. “Freddy and me continue to talk about our options going forward.”
When pressed on why Adu hasn’t performed as well as anybody has hoped, Hackworth dismissed the notion that it has anything to do with how the talented attacking player is being used.
Adu started 20 of his team’s 34 games in 2012, registering five goals and one assist. Playing primarily on the outside, he was kept on the field for a full 90 minutes only five times, none of those shifts coming after July 8.
Adu wasn’t used at all the final two games of the 2012 season, despite being healthy.
“I think there’s been a lot of continuity with Freddy,” Hackworth said. “This is the club he’s now been at the longest, has played the most minutes for and has had coaches give him ample opportunities to prove those things. It’s not like we’re unhappy with his performance on the field. I think that’s the biggest misconception: that people have this idea that there’s a problem between Freddy and myself. The case is there are unrealistic expectations on Freddy.
“For an outsider to say Freddy didn’t get an opportunity or he needs more minutes, that’s now how this business works.”
Hackworth reiterated that with Adu, it’s all about forgetting the expectations that once made him the famous soccer player in this country and making sure he plays more consistently within the team.
Whether or not he’ll get another chance to do that in Philly will be a lingering question throughout the offseason.
“He’s a young player that has a ton of potential,” Hackworth said. “Everyone knows that. Nobody knows that more than I do. And nobody believes in him as much as I do. But the reality is he has to focus and he has to change some things in order for him to reach that full potential. And that’s what this club needs. We don’t want any part of a player that doesn’t understand all of those demands.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.