WASHINGTON, D.C. (Monday, December 11, 2006) -- The beautiful romance, which grew into a stormy marriage, ended in divorce today when D.C. United dispatched teen sensation Freddy Adu to Salt Lake City.
United traded its 17-year-old midfielder, now a veteran on three Major League Soccer seasons to Real Salt Lake along with the rights to reserve goalkeeper Nick Rimando, receiving in return a major player allocation, the rights to goalkeeper Jay Nolly and future considerations.
"I'm definitely looking forward to this," Adu told the Salt Lake Tribune.
If Adu is obtained via transfer by a club in Europe during the upcoming MLS season, United would receive a portion of Salt Lake's compensation payment from the league. Should Adu stay with RSL for the entire 2007 season, United would receive a conditional draft pick which would be predicated on how well he played.
MLS operates under a single-entity system in which the league owns all player contracts and handles all transactions.
While Adu was a major figure for the media, which fawned over him following his signing as a 14-year-old, he has yet to live up to the shining potential forecast for him in 2004 when he became the youngest professional athlete in the United States. He was never a comfortable fit into United coach Peter Nowak's plans.
There has to be a question as to what exactly RSL acquired. It is generally considered that 2007 would be Adu's last season in MLS. He has long expressed a desire to play in Europe, but was not eligible to sign with a club there until his 18th birthday, which is June 2. While that falls in the middle of MLS's season, it is in the offseason for most leagues in Europe, who generally play from August to May or June. It is not without perecedent for an MLS team to transfer an important player overseas in the middle of its season.
It did not seem likely that Adu's wish to be a central player, either as a playmaking midfielder or a withdrawn striker, would ever be accommodated by United, which has league "Most Valuable Player" Christian Gomez and six-time All-Star Jaime Moreno in those respective roles.
"Freddy wanted to play central midfield or withdrawn forward," United president and general manager Kevin Payne told The Washington Post. "On our team, that's Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno and that wasn't likely to happen."
United is reported to be close to signing Gomez to a lucrative two-year contract extension.
Adu never fit well into the rigid system of Peter Nowak, who limited his playing time despite much criticism. In 2004, Adu played in 30 regular-season matches, but started only 14, contributing five goals and three assists as United marched to the MLS championship. In his sophomore season, he started 16 times in 25 appearances, producing four goals and six assists.
Adu's frustration boiled over in October of 2005 when he complained to the media about his playing time, leading to the player being briefly suspended.
While there were no public outburst in the 2006 season, Adu was privately discontent with his role as a flank player. Though Adu played in all 32 regular-season matches -- starting 29 -- and he chipped in two goals and eight assists, it was indicative of his standing on the team that he natural left-footer was often found manning the right side of midfield.
At Real Salt Lake, Adu has been reunited with coach John Ellinger, who led the U.S. under-17 program when Adu was part of the residency program in Bradenton, Fla. Ellinger seems prepared to satisfy his prodigy by playing him in the middle.
"I just felt like I needed to go to an environment where I would get an opportunity to play my natural position and I'll get that here," Adu told the Tribune. "I'm just real excited about it, because I also get to be with the coach I started with, who knows me. We have an amazing relationship, and when I have a great relationship with my coach, I play my best soccer, so hopefully that's the case."
Rimando played five years for United, following his first two with the Miami Fusion, which folded. He was the D.C. starter until an injury limited him to 13 games in 2004. He was replaced by a little-known back-up by Troy Perkins, who was on a developmental contract.
Rimando, 27, earned his starting job back in 2005, but an injury before the past season began gave Perkins the edge and he went on to be honored as MLS's best keeper. Rimando leaves as United's all-time leader in victories (41), shutouts (29), saves (355), save percentage (.722) and goals-against-average (1.22).
Rimando was in net for the 3-2 triumph over the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS Cup 2004 final. "Nick was a great veteran and was an important part of our 2004 MLS Cup win," Nowak told The Post. "We wish him the best as he begins his time in Salt Lake."
Nolly, 24, who helped Indiana earn the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Division I men's championships, made seven appearances -- six starts -- in his two seasons as the backup to Scott Garlick.