WASHINGTON – For Freddy Adu, a return to celebrate D.C. United’s final game at RFK Stadium represents a journey back in time to what he considers his “greatest” moment as a professional.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
While Adu has had a 12-year pro career that included stints in Europe and on the US national team, he never lived up to the massive hype as America’s soccer wunderkind that surrounded his United debut as a 14-year old.
Now 28, he’s a full year removed from playing in a live match with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and hopes someone will take a chance on him in the January transfer window. He plans to spend the next couple months training for that opportunity in Arizona or Florida.
“Honestly I just want the opportunity to get out on the field,” Adu said Saturday. “Because I haven’t played a lot the last couple years, it’s a little harder for me, because when people know you, it’s a good thing but it’s also a bad thing. Because you’re playing and you’re playing well, you’re going to get a lot of praise and all that. But when you’re not playing, you’re going to get destroyed."
That’s one reason Adu says he decided to extricate himself from a situation at Polish side Sandecja Nowy Sacz, where it appeared the club technical director wanted his services, but the coach didn’t.
“I can’t afford to go another team and not play again, because that would be it for me,” Adu said. “You can only have so many chances, right? And it didn’t feel right.”
In spite of the yearlong layoff, on Sunday he scored what was eventually the winning goal in the club’s legends game prior to D.C.’s 2-1 loss against the New York Red Bulls on Decision Day presented by AT&T to end the club's tenure at RFK Stadium.
The Ghanaian born D.C.-area native admitted that being on the field for the legends game, rather than one of countless full professional fixtures around the globe this weekend, was disorienting.
“There’s a lot of things that I think back on and I’m like, 'Man, I was young, I was naive about a lot of things,'” Adu said. “When you get older, literally, reality hits you at some point. And you’re just like, man, did you ever think you would be in this situation, you know what I mean? Going a whole year without playing soccer. I never thought that in my life.”
Even so, the memories that come from his first return to RFK in half a decade remain mostly positive. Particularly when he thinks of the first time he came on the field, for Alecko Eskandarian, in front of a raucous crowd on April 3, 2004.
“Getting ready to go on -- that was probably the strangest feeling I have ever had,” Adu said. “It was excitement, but it was scary at the same time. You don’t think about that until you’re actually there getting ready to go in the game, and you see Alecko running off, and you’re like, ‘Man, it’s really happening.’ That moment was, to me, probably the greatest moment I’ve had so far as a professional.”