Freddy Adu and D.C. United coach Peter Nowak seem to have mended their rift, but it’s clear Adu’s teammates haven’t completely forgiven him for comments he made last weekend.
Adu, 15, told the Dallas Morning News after last Saturday’s game against the Dallas Burn he was unhappy with his playing time. Yesterday, team captain Ryan Nelsen chastised Adu for speaking out, saying he “can’t just ask” for more minutes.
“His whole career, he’s been told, ‘You’re the man,’ and he’s still being told that,” Nelsen said, his voice growing agitated. “In all honesty, he’s not the man now. He’s not good enough at the moment. Talent opens doors, but it doesn’t get you through them.”
He played the final 18 minutes of the 1-1 tie and hasn’t seen more than 27 minutes in any of his last three games. He has started only five matches this year.
“Every time I come in, the game has already taken shape,” Adu said in Sunday’s edition of the Morning News. “All I had to do is go play defense. I’m on the bench for 75 freaking minutes, then when I come in, everyone on both teams is trying to protect the tie, so what am I supposed to do?”
He and Nowak discussed the comments this week, and Adu called this his best week of practice this season. But it’s likely Adu’s work ethic is better because Nowak strongly suggested the rookie clean up his act in training.
Nowak wouldn’t confirm Adu’s assertion that this was his best practice week, but was pleased with his attitude. Nevertheless, the coach still had strong words for Adu yesterday.
“We talked about the game against Dallas — his approach to this game and his approach to the practice,” Nowak said. “It’s the same for everybody. How you train is how you play. If you train 50 percent, you’re going to play 50 percent. If you train 25 percent, with a mentality that you’re not going to be available for the weekend, then what are we going to do?”
United has two forwards in camp trying out for the team and could sign one or both. If United signed either, it would push Adu farther down the depth chart. He responded to that possibility by calling himself a “natural midfielder.” Of course, he is listed as a forward and hasn’t played in the midfield this year.
“I’m not really thinking about [the roster moves]. Coaches will see that,” Adu said. “Every time I’m out on the field, I’m more of a midfielder than I am a forward.”
Adu probably won’t start today’s game against the MetroStars, so his next start might be in the MLS All-Star Game July31 at RFK Stadium. As of Tuesday, Adu was third in voting among Eastern Conference forwards.
If he were voted a starter, Adu’s rookie year would begin to resemble Kobe Bryant’s sophomore campaign with the L.A. Lakers. Bryant, who started just one game for the team that year, was voted a starter for the NBA All-Star Game in 1997-98. Adu is the closest thing the league has to Bryant — a young, marketable superstar with a flashy game — but his teammates are still waiting for Adu’s play to justify his demand for time.
“He’s probably paid MLS back two-fold for what they’ve given him,” Nelsen said. “The publicity is great for the league. I’ve run on his coattails, being a member of D.C. United. But it’s just a sideshow. It’s not the real product, and people have to understand it’s going to take awhile.”
Note — Goalie Troy Perkins, who started the last six games for United, had his contract upgraded from a developmental to a standard deal yesterday and was added to the team’s senior roster.
Perkins, whose old contract paid him just $850 a month, quit his part-time job as a fitness equipment salesman at Galyans earlier this week. He was working 25 to 30 hours a week at the company’s Fairfax store. The team did not disclose the value of Perkins’ new contract, but it is likely it’s for the standard league minimum of $25,000 a season.
“It’s nice to have that out of the way. It’s always in the back of your mind, wondering if [the team] is going to keep its word,” Perkins said. “I believed in myself, and I knew it could happen. I just didn’t think it would be this fast.”