At the age of 14, Freddy Adu was drafted to DC United with the first overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. With loads of promise and heaps of pressure, Adu had a solid, if not spectacular, rookie season when he finished with five goals and three assists in 30 matches, 14 of them starts.
In three seasons with United, he had 11 goals and 17 assists before playing the first half of the 2007 season with Real Salt Lake. Then, he transferred to Benfica in Portugal where he started a four-year stint that saw him loaned out to teams in France, Portugal, Greece and Turkey before he returned home to Major League Soccer last season.
Now 22, Adu is a veteran and a key component of the re-tooled Philadelphia Union.
His career bears a striking parallel to Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson, who came into MLS at 16 years old and is back in the league after four-year absence.
“Freddy and I go way back,” said Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson, who has played internationally and at Aris in Greece with Adu. “He and I – our careers are pretty similar. A lot of expectations. We’ve had our ups and downs. He’s definitely a guy we need to watch out for this weekend.”
This is not Adu’s first appearance at CenturyLink Field – and not even his first with the Union. In 2006, his DC United club faced Real Madrid in front of a crowd of 66,830 in a summer friendly against David Beckham’s club. It was also the site of his second goal for the US National Team on July 4, 2009, against Grenada.
Last season, he scored for the Union in a 2-0 win for Philadelphia on October 8.
He now acts as something of a leader for that team after serving as captain for the US U23s at the Olympic qualifying tournament this year.
“He’s been through a lot of experiences,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Coming back to the league for him is a tremendous opportunity for him to show that he can play and play consistently at this level. His maturity has grown in his willingness to take responsibility for the team in key moments.”
The Union is a team that lost much of their leadership from the 2011 team, with midfielder Sebastien Le Toux going to the Vancouver Whitecaps in a trade, goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon returning to his native Colombia and forward Carlos Ruiz leaving at midseason to join Veracruz in Mexico.
Midfielder Gabriel Gomez and forward Lionard Pajoy have swallowed up most of those minutes in the attack, while 20-year-old Zac MacMath has taken over the starting goalkeeper job.
Gomez is in his first MLS season after a nomadic first decade as a pro that saw him play for ten different teams in five countries. Already, he’s blended well with his new club though, scoring three goals in his first seven matches with the Union.
“He’s an experienced player,” Schmid said of Gomez. “He’s a powerful player. He’s strong. He gets in for some headers, he gets into the box, he’s decent at hitting free kicks. He’s a good all-around player.”
Pajoy and Adu have the only other goals scored by the Union, while MacMath has allowed eight goals in seven starts – just as he did in 2011 when he went unbeaten at 3-0-4. However, this year his record runs at 2-4-1.
After dropping their first three matches this season, Philadelphia has gone 2-1-1, with their only loss coming to the San Jose Earthquakes last week at PPL Park. Head coach Peter Nowak will be serving a one-game suspension, though, so will not be available to the team once the game kicks off.
The match is set for a 1:30 pm Pacific kickoff from CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders will look to extend their winning streak to four straight matches.