You guys remember Freddy Adu, right? The 14 year old that was supposed to be America’s first world class, undisputed soccer megastar that made the US of A fall in love with a hand-usage-shy sport before falling off the face of the earth and becoming a precautionary tale to young starlets everywhere? Don’t look now, but he turned in one of the best performances yet this season yesterday of any MLS player. And he did it all in one half.
New York v. Philadelphia is one of the more exciting new rivalries in MLS, between two cities that traditionally spare little pity for each other. With a poor start to a season that has seen him make some unpopular moves (and could see him make a few more before the day is over), Union head coach Peter Nowak decided to trust his club’s record highest earner, giving Adu more outlets on offense and allowing him to roam freely.
For the first forty or so minutes of the game, it worked brilliantly. Despite Joel Linpere’s fantastic opener for New York, Adu was the dominant factor on the game, creating plays, beating men, carving out an assist, and generally wreaking havoc. The most impressive of his moments of magic was the endline nutmeg of New York’s Costa Rican international defender Roy Miller, which had the PPL press box sounding more like the crowd out of an And1 mixtape than a collection of jaded hacks.
And then, the letdown. Just a couple of minutes after that moment of one-time wonderkid magic, Adu, trying to dribble past two defenders inside the New York box went down, prompting referee Jorge Gonzalez to whip out a second yellow (the first for a late challenge early in the game), and send off Adu.
For his part, Adu claims he wasn’t trying to con the ref, but bracing for an impact from Dax McCart which never came, and lost his footing.
It wasn’t a foul or anything, but in that instant, I’m not just trying to bait the ref into calling it. I’ve already got a yellow card. I’m not gonna go out there and be stupid and try and dive. I was just bracing myself to get hit. He stuck his foot out, but he didn’t get me.
I didn’t stay down and complain for a call or anything like that, I was just trying to get right back up and play, but he blew the whistle. Everything happened so fast, and he just decided, “You try to bait me, I’m gonna give him another.”
In my opinion, if a player’s already on a yellow card and something like that happens, I think you get a warning.
New York coach Hans Backe disagreed, calling Adu’s fall “100 percent a dive,” while Peter Nowak refused to be drawn on the issue.
The important thing is this, however: for one half yesterday, Freddy Adu played like the player everyone thought he might become.
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