CHESTER, Pa. – It’s official: Freddy Adu is returning to the league where his career began and reuniting with his first professional coach.
On Friday morning, the Philadelphia Union announced the blockbuster signing of the 22-year-old Adu, who will join the Union on a free transfer from Portuguese giants Benfica. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, the club confirmed that Adu will not be a Designated Player.
Adu will be available for selection for Philadelphia's game at FC Dallas on Saturday (8 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
One of the most well-known American soccer players of all-time, Adu made history when, at 14, he became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract, inking the momentous deal with D.C. United in 2004.
Under the tutelage of Union manager Peter Nowak, who coached D.C. from 2004-'06, Adu played three seasons for United, making 87 regular season appearances and scoring 11 goals. In 2004, he helped the club win its fourth MLS Cup.
Ahead of the 2007 season, he was traded to Real Salt Lake, where he played only 11 games and scored one goal before moving to Benfica in Portugal.
However, in Europe, Adu’s progress stalled as the one-time prodigy struggled to earn sufficient minutes while being bounced around throughout the continent. After one season with Benfica, Adu had separate stints on loan with AS Monaco (France), Belenenses (Portugal), and Aris (Greece), none of which were particularly memorable.
It was only after he joined Turkish 2nd-division side Çaykur Rizespor on loan in January of this year that Adu began to regain his form. In half a season in Rize, he played 13 games, scored 4 goals, and led the club to 3rd place in the Turkish 1.Lig. The small, aspiring club just missed out on promotion to the country's top flight, the Turkish Super Lig, falling in the promotion playoff final to Orduspor.
His performances in Turkey led to a surprise call-up to the US national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June. Showing the kind of creativity, vision and ball control that first turned him into a star, Adu was very effective in the final two games of the tournament despite the fact that he was making his first international appearance in two years.
Adu, who will likely be used as an attacking central midfielder with the Union, was called up for national team duty again this week, but he did not suit up for Wednesday's friendly against Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field here in Philadelphia.
Now, Adu gets to stay in Philly – where he hopes his once-promising career can be revitalized under the same coach that gave it its start.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.