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Union's Freddy Adu preaches patience as he tries to adapt to his new team

Freddy Adu was far from dominant in his Union debut last week, and that might be more a testament to the caliber of play in Major League Soccer than anything the attacking midfielder did or did not do.

Freddy Adu was far from dominant in his Union debut last week, and that might be more a testament to the caliber of play in Major League Soccer than anything the attacking midfielder did or did not do.

Adu played 62 minutes in Saturday's 2-2 draw with visiting FC Dallas. After an unspectacular first half, he came on stronger in the second before leaving the game, a little winded but glad to have persevered.

He said that at halftime team manager Peter Nowak talked to him about being more aggressive, which is what he was in his shortened second-half stint.

The fact that he didn't run circles around the opposition was no surprise to Adu.

"The league is very good, and MLS isn't a league where you can just walk in and start right away and do whatever you want," Adu said.

Eventually, he will be expected to play at an all-star level. But after one practice, that wasn't realistic.

Adu was happy to get that first game under his belt after all the hype. He is preaching patience, though some are expecting immediate excellence.

"It is going to take a couple of games to be on the same page with your teammates," he explained.

Adu said he will be a much different player after taking part in all the practices this week, but the transition will remain a work in progress.

What is making it more difficult is that he isn't beginning his Union career against, say, Toronto or New England. The Union have beaten those teams by a combined 9-2.

Dallas is the second-best team in the Western Conference, and Saturday's game at Columbus is against the Eastern Conference leader. So Adu is on his learning curve while playing against two of the best MLS teams.

Even so, that won't temper most people's expectations of the 22-year-old. And those expectations should be high. Eventually, this player with a wealth of international experience - he has worked his way back to the U.S. national team - should strive to be an all-star.

His addition will help the team in the future, but the Union also are counting on his production now.

The Union are in excellent shape - playoff-wise - with 10 of the 18 teams qualifying. But even though this is a second-year club, the goal isn't just to be invited to the postseason party. The Union would like to stay a long time, and Adu's adapting to his new team will be a factor in this happening.

He showed some glimpses in the second half of his ability to break down defenders and make plays. During the first half he appeared more passive, just trying to fit in. Then came his halftime chat with Nowak.

"I was encouraged to do what I love to do best, which is going at people and being aggressive," Adu said.

That style could be a great influence on the Union, who despite their 8-5-10 record have been inconsistent on offense.

So with 11 games remaining, the Union will try to earn as many points as possible to reach the postseason while incorporating Adu into the attack. Learning on the job isn't easy, but it also isn't impossible. Adu said that being on loan to so many European teams has forced him to adjust on the fly, so he's not too worried.

The only question is how long this adjustment will take.

"I have to get on board with everybody else," he said. "Once that happens, I think we are going to be tough to beat because we have a pretty good team."

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