Union fans, are you ready for Freddy Adu?

Posted: August 12, 2011

WHENEVER I was suspicious about chomping into a slab of steak on my dinner plate, my dad used to say "to get to the meat, you have to cut through the fat."

Funny, the same rules apply when dodging smoke and mirrors.

Whether you are a soccer fan, an avid Union supporter or a slave to social networking, you already heard that the club is scheduled to announce the signing of U.S. national team forward-midfielder Freddy Adu today at PPL Park.

But what you don't know is all the head-scratching intrigue leading up to this moment that should have made the signing so obvious - at least in my case.

Yesterday, Union boss Peter Nowak blamed it on the pills he's taking for an ailing back, but he was "jumpy" during his weekly news conference. Nowak can be shifty at times, yes, but never jumpy. But let's rewind . . .

Since the Gold Cup final in June, I have submitted multiple requests to interview Adu. I contacted U.S. Soccer, which told me to contact Adu's agent, Richard Motzkin. I contacted Motzkin, who replied via email days after the Gold Cup conveying his appreciation for my interest, but noting his "client would not be speaking at this time."

Fast forward . . .

On the eve of the United States' match against Mexico on Wednesday - in which Adu didn't appear, despite being on Jurgen Klinsmann's 22-man roster - a U.S. Soccer representative said Adu would not address reporters until after the match, following unsuccessful attempts to get him during training sessions at Penn's Rhodes Field and the Eagles' NovaCare complex.

The most I managed out of Adu: "I'd love to talk to you man, but I'm sworn to secrecy." This came only after I practically chased him to the team bus after the Mexico game before a security guard's bearclaw stopped me dead in my tracks.

Noticing that I was dejected and somewhat annoyed, respected Washington Post writer Steven Goff muttered: "It's not you, man. I've tried, believe me, but he won't talk. Not until he's under contract somewhere. His agent won't let him - it's just how they are doing things."

A mere 12 hours later, I was in Nowak's weekly session as he took a barrage of questions about the "type of player the Union is looking for," given the impending close of the summer transfer window on Sunday. Attack-minded? Defensive?

"We are trying to improve, and to do that, at this point, it is most important for us to shuffle our front line," Nowak said. "The rest we can figure out, but now we need to figure out how to score more goals."

Nowak and Adu were together for three seasons (2004-06) with D.C. United, which reached the MLS Cup final in that first season. In that span, the precocious teen, hyped as the future of U.S. Soccer, scored 11 goals and added 17 assists in MLS matches. Adu, 22, hasn't scored that many goals as a journeyman with six European clubs over the past 5 years (nine goals).

Meanwhile, I've been told it was on good terms, but it's hard to believe both Nowak and Carlos Ruiz decided to part ways amicably. I'd like to believe Nowak's downtrodden demeanor as he revealed the news of Ruiz' departure after the loss to Colorado was not a ruse. I'd also like to think he already had Ruiz' replacement - Adu - in mind.

All Nowak would reveal is that the deal with Adu would be finalized late last night or early this morning. He also addressed the rumor that the Union was chasing Juventus defender Fabio Grosso, but said Grosso's "family doesn't want to leave Italy."

Nowak made a remark about Grosso's recent demotion to the reserves of the Italian giant, so I'm speculating this is another Robert Pires situation where Italian beaches were more inviting than Chester waterfront.

When Adu returns to MLS, it will be a great comeback story. After leaving MLS in 2007, he landed in Portugal with Benfica. But Benfica ended up doubling as a soccer club and pawn shop, lending Adu out to four clubs over a 3-year period. He was a teammate of Ruiz' in Greece when the pair played for Aris FC in 2010. No doubt Nowak has kept an eye on Adu, who has proved his worth via the U.S. national team. Now it is time to bring him back to MLS. It has been rumored Adu was on Chivas USA's radar, but the Union stepped up and staked its claim.

Not that his arrival comes easily.

'IT'S A PROCESS'

 Tricky thing getting a player to wear your uniform in this league. It's a very cutthroat business, from what I understand. Not just domestically; overseas, the European dealings can get downright sinister.

With MLS being a single enterprise, it has the final say in everything regarding player contracts, once interest in a prospect is shown by one of the league's 18 clubs. A few front-office types around the league who do these dealings told me this process is never quick, and, in many cases, longer than the team that secures international work visas and deals with transfer contracts would like.

"It's a process they don't make easy," one insider revealed. "In fact, it'd be nice if the league actually re-evaluated the way they go about [players contracts and acquisitions], because this current system sucks."

Perhaps this provides a little insight into why the Union remains reticent on just about everything and why smokescreens sometimes are imperative.

Just ask its latest signee.

SHOTS ON GOAL

UPCOMING GAME:

FC Dallas (12-6-6, 42 points) at Union (8-5-9, 33 points)

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: PPL Park, Chester

TV: 6ABC

On the web: Streaming online at MLSSoccer.com

For kicks: It's the Texas two-step for the Union. After facing Houston at PPL Park last week, Dallas, the second-best team in a tough MLS Western Conference, travels to face the Union, looking to shrug off a loss to league leaders in Los Angeles . . . FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, fresh off an explosive night with the U.S. national team, leads Dallas in goals (nine) . . . Remains to be seen whether recent Colombian signee Daniel Cruz will play. Cruz, who joined the club on Aug. 4, played the final 18 minutes of the match against the Galaxy, but, as coach Schellas Hyndman said this week, he still needs to get match fit . . . The Union is 0-1-2 against Dallas all-time, with Dallas outscoring the Union, 6-2. The tie, on May 15, 2010, was then-rookie forward Danny Mwanga's first professional goal, coming in second-half stoppage time for a 1-1 final at Lincoln Financial Field.

INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)

For the Union: Questionable: Kyle Nakazawa, MF (illness); Levi Houapeu, MF (left ankle strain). Probable: Sheanon Williams, DF (lower leg contusion).

For FC Dallas: Out: Edson Edward, DF (right knee ACL tear); David Ferreira, MF (right ankle); Maykel Galindo, FW (right hamstring strain), Questionable: Andrew Jacobson, MF (left knee); DF Jackson, DF (right ankle); Ugo Ihemelu, DF (concussion)

DID YOU KNOW?

Jesse Marsch, who recently was named the head coach of MLS' upcoming addition, the Montreal Impact, was Union manager Peter Nowak's roommate while the pair played in Chicago (1998-2002). The two also worked together with the U.S. national team; Nowak the head coach at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and Marsch an assistant to former U.S. coach Bob Bradley.

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