In his final news conference Monday, Union team manager John Hackworth insisted that his exit interview with Freddy Adu might not lead to the midfielder's exit.
Yet there was no denying, reading between the lines, that Hackworth and the team feel that a player who earned $519,000 this Major League Soccer season had underperformed - not only in games but in practice.
After a season-ending 3-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 27, Hackworth said no final decision on Adu had been made, despite a Philly.com report that suggested he had played his last game for the Union.
Hackworth has not changed his stance.
"Definitely I think there is a chance Freddy will be back," Hackworth said. "Freddy and I continue to talk of our options going forward."
Adu's high-profile agent, Richard Motzkin, was circumspect about his client on Monday: "I don't have a lot to say about it. He is a member of the team."
Hackworth said that no one believes in Adu more than he does, but he seemed to concede that his belief is being seriously tested.
"The reality is he has to focus, to change some things in order for him to reach that full potential," Hackworth said.
When a coach mentions focus, it is often code for a player who does not hustle.
Adu's output never met the considerable hype surrounding him since he signed with D.C. United at age 14.
He's just 23 - but it's an old 23.
"We don't want any part of a player that doesn't understand all those demands," Hackworth said, still talking of Adu. "He does and now we are trying to in our exit interviews have very clear communication of what will make sense for us and what will make sense for Freddy."
Adu joined the Union in August 2011. In 37 games, including two playoff contests, he has made 26 starts and produced seven goals and two assists, numbers that don't jump out.
Yet he has been in and out of the lineup. In those 37 games, he has played the full 90 minutes just six times. The team should allow him 10 to 12 games of playing the entire 90 to see what he can do, instead of making him a yo-yo.
Hackworth discounted the idea that shuffling Adu in and out hurt his continuity.
"The fact that he did not reach the level that other people expected of him, including his coaches and teammates, is an issue," Hackworth said, "but the bigger question here is for an outsider to say 'Freddy didn't get an opportunity' or 'Freddy didn't have a chance' or '[He] needs more minutes' - that is not how this business works."
The Union went 10-18-6 and scored 37 goals in 34 games. Adu is the one player who would take on defenders, who had the ability to break down an opponent one-on-one.
There is more to the game than that, of course, but it says here that Adu can help somebody. It just doesn't appear that the Union will be that team.