18 October 2005

Duck. Cover.

Few things about my being a DC United fan are as complicated as my feelings about Freddy Adu. I am a fan of the organization, the team, the atmosphere more than any one player. Freddy complicates that, because for so many others in the US Soccer (and the DC United) scene, Freddy Adu and DC United are so tightly linked. MLS's marketing of Adu gave rise to Freddy-mania, and brought a new set of fans to the red and black. Some of the old guard harbored a resentment of these people: "Do you know who El Diablo is? Then go away..." To me, it was always a silly division. Enjoy DCU. Enjoy Freddy. It is ridiculous that the two should ever be mutually exclusive.

Then we get an article like this from Steve Goff in tomorrow's Post:
D.C. United's Freddy Adu voiced his frustration with Coach Peter Nowak today,
saying he is upset with the amount of playing time he has received and that he
will consider leaving the club after this season.

DC United's anti-Adu contingent will seize on this. "Not a team player" will be the commentary. "Too big for his britches. Needs to be taught a lesson." There's truth here. Adu should not have said anything like this to the media. Steve Goff is a reporter, and while he's sympathetic to DC United he's there to get the story. MLS's golden boy unhappy and wants out? That's a story.

But I have no problem with Freddy feeling the way he does. I think Piotr Nowak has, especially this season, not used him as well as he could have. If I were Freddy, I would be frusturated as well, being sent to the bench after a game-winning goal against Real Salt Lake and earning Player of the Week honors. He wants to be a part of the US National team, and he's absolutley correct that in his current role Bruce Arena isn't going to give him much of a look. But you don't say it aloud entering a playoff run. You keep your mouth shut. You let the anger drive you on the pitch, fueling you as it did against RSL. You also realize that your natural position is a Center Attacking Midfielder, and while you're good, you aren't better than Christian Gomez. At least, not yet.

Piotr is not blameless here. Goff notes that "Nowak was surprised by Adu's comments." I can't see why he would be. He should know what Freddy is going through. And if he doesn't, then he isn't really paying attention. Freddy is 16, he's full of the casual arrogance that comes with that age, and he is able to outplay people with four times his experience. Piotr has the stoic resolve that, at times, is brilliant to rally a team behind; but also may make it difficult for him to deal with personal feelings. To Nowak, personal feelings aren't part of the game. To Freddy, at his age, they're probably something he feels intensely and, at times, can be overwhelming. That requires a softer touch that I imagine Piotr possesses.

This sort of thing was probably inevitable, but the timing is horrendous. The simple answer is to say "Freddy- grow up." True. But also true is this: "Piotr - He's not grown up, and he'll need understanding of things other than soccer to help him get there. He's not you as you are now, he's not you as you were at 16. Part of being an elder adult is to realize that kids say stupid things, impudent things. But you don't know everything either, and no one benefits if you make it a you vs. me battle. Forgiveness and understanding are soft skills, but important." Then you go to the off-season, and you discuss things. Maybe Piotr and Freddy don't fit well. Fine. But right now you are in it together, so do your best to get along for a few more weeks.

Addendum: I've reread this entire post, and let me see if I can say things in a simpler fasion: Freddy was very stupid to say what he said. Freddy is not DC United. Piotr may think he's completley fair about everything, but I don't think he is. I think Piotr gets an idea in his head, and it takes a lot (read: more than a necessary amount) of evidence to convince him he's wrong. Piotr is convinced Freddy isn't an every day player. It's tough to prove you are an everyday player unless you play every day. So Piotr may not have been using Freddy as often as perhaps he should. See also: Bobby Boswell. To Freddy, who is 16, life seems unfair. Life seems unfair to everyone who is 16. So he says something. Dumb. But, perhaps, not incorrect.

If push comes to shove, and I don't think it will since we're in the early stages of a media cycle here, I'd want Nowak to stay and Freddy to go. But that's an extreme case, and we're not there yet. There is plenty of time for reconciliation and understanding. Let's not forget that in a rush to choose sides.


At 18 October, 2005 18:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys can keep him. NO metro fans want that spoiled brat on our team (except for Lalas). Plus he wouldn't start ANYWHERE on our team. Up top? offensive midfield? There are better players than him at each position.

And no way are you guys going to get Guevara for him. If you are, you'd be stupid not to.

At 18 October, 2005 19:39, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I wouldn't say he's a spoiled brat. He's a sixteen year old who thinks may at times have a bit of an ego problem. Not exactly an earth-shattering occurance. I'm pretty sure just about every sixteen year old has an ego problem, and that's without having millions of dollars worth of endorsments and thousands of people telling you you're the greatest thing to happen to U.S. soccer (I'm not saying it, but it does get said).

And I would start throwing "spoiled brat" around and then start talking about Mr. "I'm not getting enough attention so I'm taking my ball and going home" Guevara. But the Metros can keep him, the day he plays for DC is the day I break out an "everyone but Guevara" DC jersey to wear to the games.

And, did you talk to all twenty fans before you made the generalization that NO Metro fan wants Freddy?

At 18 October, 2005 21:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Guevara going back to Honduras next year?

At 19 October, 2005 00:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tired of the inferiority complex MLS fans have. Listen: MLS does not need Freddy Adu. The league's attendance, as a whole, was higher in 2003 than 2005 last time I checked. Freddy got one team to become a travelling road show; he didn't put the league on the map.

And so, no one absolutely has to get him on the field. The metros may be, top to bottom, several steps down from DC, but guess what? At Freddy's two ideal positions (attacking midfield and withdrawn forward), they have a better player than him. Guevara and Djorkaeff are both better than Freddy, and do you really think (insert big European ex-player here) will start him over those two next season? Recently, Mike Magee was starting at left midfield. Could Freddy displace him? Maybe, maybe not. He'd be a part time starter...just like he is at DC.

The fact is, there are only a few MLS teams Freddy would start at: Salt Lake, Chivas, probably with LA (over Ngwenya right now), maybe Colorado (him vs. Kirovski), maybe Columbus (him vs. Martino)...that's it. He would be doing what he does right now for Kansas City, and they're not even in the playoffs. Not only that, but does he really think he's going to walk in and start in Europe? Can you really picture Jose Mourinho telling Arjen Robben "Sorry, this kid who couldn't be a starter in the US league is better than you. Have a seat."? Or Ferguson benching Giggs, Park Ji-Sung, or Wayne Rooney? Hell, would he be able to start at any team in the Premiership?

With Tino being rested against Columbus, and the team playing better with Walker off the bench as opposed to starting, Freddy probably should have started that last game. That's only because Quaranta was out...otherwise, he sits. Moreno is better by a wide margin, Gomez is better by a wide margin, and Quaranta is a step above him. Nowak is not perfect, but he is doing something no one in American soccer has ever tried to do, and he's done the right thing at nearly every turn. Plus, I can definitely see the other side of the argument over the last game: Walker is playing like he did in 2003 when the Quakes won it all with him up top. He's hot.

MLS will survive Freddy Adu's departure. Attendance at RFK didn't go from 2,000 to 25,000...it went up 4,000 or 5,000. The league was not on the operating table before he got here, and it won't go there when he leaves. Starting Freddy to "save" MLS devalues the league, disrespects every player that isn't named Adu, and would cause me and many others to lose a ton of respect for the coaching staff and front office for caving.

I like Freddy, too. I like how he approaches the game, his youthful zest for it. He plays with a smile. He plays the game the way it should be played. Soccer, though, is a sport and people want to win at sports. Right now, the best way for DC United to win is to play Gomez at attacking midfield with Moreno and Quaranta up front.

At 19 October, 2005 00:26, Anonymous Anonymous said...

D, I don't know if you saw this, but apparently your analysis is more thoughful than ours ;-). No seriously, my brother's feeling are hurt, but I told him you're cool (I kid, I kid). He said basically the same thing as you (Nowak has not handled Adu all that well), but maybe his title was a bit much. I think that guy over at Record as I Am thinks Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen is the title of our blog. Anyway, it was fun seeing my RSS feeds blow up with reaction from all over the soccer blogosphere. Would these comments by any other player generate the same interest? I don't think so.
By the way, how's that blogroll link coming? ;-)

At 19 October, 2005 03:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Piotr is not blameless here."

I don't know. I think Nowak is in a now win situation. As I wrote on my blog, I just don't think he can offer much to Adu while Gomez is around.

Does that mean Nowak shares some of the blame? I think it's more like this is just a lousy situation for Adu and Nowak is just doing his job.

At 19 October, 2005 07:39, Blogger Brian said...

Solid analysis, D. Yours was the first take I wanted to see when I read the article this morning

At 19 October, 2005 13:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice comments. You must be a parent (father) with insight like this. If not, you'll make a good one if you can continue to remember what you wrote. Hope Nowak's parental experience includes a little bit of this perspective, otherwise Freddy will be seeing a lot of pine in the next 2 games.


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