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United says adieu to Adu

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So much for the faltering Freddy Adu boomlet in the nation's capital.

Three seasons after he was introduced as the face of Major League Soccer and its highest-paid player at age 14, the speedy midfielder was traded by D.C. United to the expansion Real Salt Lake franchise yesterday.

United traded Adu to make room under its salary cap for new players, and a team official said the player is happy with the move.

"I think he is pleased," United president Kevin Payne said. "He has a good relationship with [Real Salt Lake coach] John Ellinger, and I think he has been told he will play the role on the field he wants to play."

Adu spent three years under Ellinger in a residency program in Bradenton, Fla., and played for him on the U.S. under-17 team.

"With all the hype that surrounded him entering the league at such a young age, sometimes people fail to see what a proven player he has developed into," Ellinger said.

United's coaching staff recently returned from a scouting trip to Argentina and Brazil.

"The main element of the trade is that we have identified some veteran players, and we need allocation money," United technical director Dave Kasper said. "We need money for acquisition costs and in some cases loans fees. We had to move quickly because we will be playing in the CONCACAF Cup early next year."

In another development, Kasper confirmed coach Peter Nowak, whose three-year contract runs out next month, will remain with the team next season.

Adu was one of the highest-paid players in the league in 2006, earning $550,000, which initially didn't count against United's $2.1 million salary cap but has increased each year.

Along with Adu, United also traded the rights to second-string goalie Nick Rimando to Salt Lake. In return United will receive a major player allocation and the rights to goalie Jay Nolly. The club also will receive money if Adu is transferred to another club.

Adu made his debut with United in 2004 as the youngest athlete in modern American sports to sign a professional contract, and his debut attracted a media circus rarely seen in the history of American soccer. He played in every game that season and helped the team win its fourth MLS title. Overall, however, the player hailed by some as "the new Pele" had a less than satisfying career with United and at times a shaky relationship with Nowak.

Just before the 2005 playoffs, Adu went public with his complaints after Nowak substituted for him in a game.

This season Adu seemed to be more settled with the club. He played in every game but had just two goals and eight assists.

Adu recently had a two-week trial with English Premier League leader Manchester United hoping to earn a contract. The club let him go after pledging to take another look at him when he is eligible to play overseas after he turns 18 in June.

Over the years, Adu made it clear he preferred to play in the central attacking midfielder role, a position that has been filled with United for the last two seasons by 32-year-old Christian Gomez, the league's reigning MVP. Last week it was reported United had extended Gomez's contract through 2008, and perhaps Adu saw this as an indication he had fallen out of favor.

"I'm sure that's what he thought," Payne said. "Freddy is a great kid and did a good job for us. I think that this trade can be good for everyone involved."

In his 87 games with United, Adu finished with 11 goals and 17 assists.

"Freddy desired to play a different role than the one we offered him here at D.C., so we hope this move can aid that wish," Nowak said.

Rimando, was United's key goalie for four seasons but after struggling with injuries early this year saw Troy Perkins win the starting job.

"That trade was largely due to accommodate Nick," Payne said. "He was out of contract, and we have made a commitment to Troy. Nick wanted the opportunity to compete for a first-team job [elsewhere]."

Nolly, 24, joins United after two season on Real Salt Lake, with which he played in seven games as backup to Scott Garlick.

Adu flew to Salt Lake last night and is scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon.