For much of the match, he sat there, brow furrowed, arms clasped.
For 82 minutes, Freddy Adu, the Union's half-million-dollar man watched from the sideline while the club he was brought into revolutionize hosted Real Salt Lake Friday night at PPL Park.
Union interim manager John Hackworth said the decision was for "tactical reasons," noting that inserting midfielder Gabriel Gomez into the lineup at Adu's position provided much-needed size.
Ultimately, it's always the coach's decision. No veto power. But for a player such as Adu, the look on his face as a spectator was that of a kid who just got smacked. Hard.
The Union battled to a scoreless draw in a physical match that in the end found Michael Farfan out for the next match against Columbus after yellow-card accumulation. It was a stagnant affair by both sides that could have used Adu's flashes of brilliance. His penchant for taking on defenders, his ability to play a clever ball into the 18-yard-box; it's why he believes he was brought to Philly.
What he's still trying to grasp is bringing it, game in and game out.
"Consistency is something that for me comes with being out there all the time, and for me I feel like it's coming, slowly but surely," Adu, 23, said in a recent telephone interview the Daily News in advance of the match against RSL. "I feel like I am an important part of this team, and I want to do what it takes to help this club win a championship."
Things are much different now for Adu. He's older and much wiser than the 14-year-old wunderkind touted as the future of soccer. Last season, he was brought in by the Union (7-12-4, 25 points), and it was at that time that he thought he was going to become the difference-maker for the team.
"I was told essentially that I was going to be given the keys to the car and in my opinion that really hasn't been the case," Adu said. "When I came, I thought I was going to have more of a central role with the team, and I've been playing on the [outside midfield] ever since I've came here. I don't mind it, it's just not what I was told."
In a season that hasn't lacked for confusion and frustration, add Adu's name to the mix. And while the Union is fighting desperately to stay alive in the playoff race with 11 games remaing, its six-figure man is figuring out how to be an integral member of this team.
"It's one of these things that when I look back at my performance, I know I can do more," Adu said. "For me, it's a matter of getting what I need to get done. Sometimes, I am not entirely happy with the coaches' decisions, but I have to live with that. The coach is the boss and sometimes the coaches see things differently than the player, and that is something I continue to understand."
Nowak case update
Lawyers for Philadelphia Professional Soccer LLC, which owns and operates the Union, responded Thursday to the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former manager Peter Nowak in last month federal court. Team counsel David E. Landau filed a motion seeking arbitration, looking to keep the case out of federal court.
In the filing, Landau contends that Nowak's contract had a distinct clause that allows for disputes over his termination to be handled by an arbitrator.
Nowak's attorney, Clifford Haines, is seeking to have the matter heard in court, as Nowak, who was fired June 13, seeks to force the Union to abide by a contract that would compensate him through 2015.
Haines, approached by Philly.com Friday, said: "If we felt this matter properly belonged in arbitration, we would not have brought it to the court's attention. There is a clause in the contract that calls for arbitration, but also calls for equitable relief in a court of law . . . There are a lot of issues that are raised by how [the Union] proceeded that we think preclude this from going to arbitration."
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.