HOUSTON - JUNE 22: Which color looks better on me? Red or blue? (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
And it was over almost as soon as it began. Despite everybody and their brother believing Freddy Adu was becoming a member of Chivas USA, he is reportedly going to the Philadelphia Union instead. As I mentioned in my article from this morning, although a deal with the Goats seemed imminent, there was no telling if it would happen, and that it could fall through at the last moment. Reports suggest that's exactly what happened, with the blame being laid at this point at the feet of club owner Jorge Vergara. Two separate explanations on Vergara's part for rejecting the deal are offered: it was too much money, or that he wants more Mexican players on the team. I think the second explanation is hogwash. It sounds like anti-Chivas folks around the league who can't stand Vergara anyway, while also reinforcing the perception among many that Chivas are "the Mexican team" of MLS.
The other reason, money, makes real sense to me, although it is disheartening. For a team that has literally never splashed the cash, it really did seem in the last 24 hours that this could represent a turning point in Chivas' short history. Given the club's track record, I thought the signing of Laurent Courtois and the still not-officially annouced signing of David Junior Lopes would be all the team would be doing for awhile, but Robin Fraser announced the team was still looking for a forward. Considering the enthusiasm of the coaching staff and front office to get another player, it seems plausible Vergara nixed the deal, although if the team gets another player...
Yeah, probably shouldn't get too hopeful about seeing any more new faces this month. But let's take a look at what's good and bad about Chivas not getting Adu:The Good:
Is he really worth a designated player contract? I think this would have been the biggest risk. Although I need to clarify that the league is extremely vague about contracts and never reveal terms, apparently a DP contract made midseason would be pro-rated, which obviously takes some of the financial sting out of it, at least for this year. But paying a player who has hardly played seems like a colossal risk, especially financially. He never played consistently at any club while in Europe, and has literally no track record or anything of note in that time. Statistics are hard to come by, but from what I could find he never played for close to a full season of games for any team. Of course, for a player who turned pro at 14, maybe that represents an unintended positive consequence for a new team, as he won't have the mileage on his body he should have gotten, but the bigger concern is if he is really worth the money.
Let's look at this another way: Adu has said he's matured recently, and acknowledged he made some mistakes in some of the past stops on his journey. Not surprising, considering he didn't have a regular adolescence, but lots of soccer players around the world sacrifice their childhoods for a shot at the big time and many do not have major immaturity issues. But what if Adu still has a lot of maturing to do? Can you imagine if Adu, on a DP contract, is dogging it in practice, and guys like Heath Pearce, and especially Nick LaBrocca have to watch him disrupt the team's focus and get paid more than anybody else? It would have to be pretty galling, I suspect. So if Adu doesn't have his issues behind him, then Chivas may keep their team chemistry intact and dodge a bullet down the line.
Nick LaBrocca doesn't have to go on the wing: The big question had Adu joined Chivas would have been what position he would play. Potentially he could play as a winger, as an attacking midfielder, or as a forward. I think considering his stature (metaphorically speaking) and the offensive needs, there would have been a good chance he would have gone to the center of the midfield and basically have the offense built around him. That is all fine, except it would almost certainly have marginalized LaBrocca, who probably would have been pushed out to the wing. Again, this is all speculation, but if it shook out this way, it might have disrupted the potential that two good offensive options could have on the team by playing one out of position.
No need to worry about failure: Although this rumor lit up the internet, and most people seem to think Adu is best served returning to MLS, it has to be remembered that this guy is a pretty unknown quantity for any team to pick up. There is a very good chance he could fail spectacularly here. Remember, his most recent success in front of Americans, the Gold Cup appearances, occurred in maybe 100 minutes of total playing time. That is an unbelievably small sample size, and we have no idea if he can contribute game after game at a high level. I think the Gold Cup showed there were signs indicating he still has a lot to offer, but if he flames out, Chivas can pat themselves on the back for seeing his flaws and not being seduced by the false potential.
Adu could have been the face of the franchise: The club has done a good job this year getting a billboard campaign going around Los Angeles County, with signs in English and Spanish reminding people that Chivas USA exists. But there's no question that in the short-term and long-term Adu could make a great face of the franchise. He is one of the only household name American soccer players (I would suspect that there are some non-soccer watching Americans who would recognize the name 'Freddy Adu' more easily, despite knowing little about him, than they would Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey). He has a life story that personifies the American dream. He also is a 'child genius,' in a sense, by turning pro before most people enter high school. Americans love that stuff. And soccer fans generally seem to want him to succeed, so I think the goodwill towards him would help Chivas get more fans locally, but also more fans and sympathizers elsewhere. It would also help raise the profile of the team in the league, and dispel some of the tired stereotypes about the franchise. However, since he isn't coming, that won't be happening.
The 11th hour reversal demonstrates lack of commitment to winning: I would like to think that Chivas could maybe still sign another player, but I doubt it. The Goats have already passed on two U.S. internationals this season: Benny Feilhaber and Adu. Now, I don't think Feilhaber is lighting the world on fire in New England (although he probably wants to light the Revs on fire) so maybe Chivas thought he cost too much for what he would bring to the team. The same principle could be at work here, that Adu is way too much of a risk to pay the asking price. If it shakes out that way, then it is unbelievably smart. But if either player gets going and really tears through the league, it is going to reinforce the image that Chivas are risk-averse and cheap. And unless Chivas get into the playoffs and make a deep run this season, it will probably not dispel the perception that the club is not interested in investing to win. I cringe when I hear this, but if the evidence continues to pile in, then I can't deny it, can I?
We need a goalscorer: I know I sound like a broken record at this point, that Chivas need a striker. A goalscorer from any position is fine, frankly. It seems like it could make the difference between getting into the playoffs and missing out, and although the team has a long way to being title contenders, it really seems like one really good player is all that is needed to put the team over the top and get into the postseason. Now, it looks like we will have to make do. Perhaps Courtois will really make a difference on the offensive end. But I still think the team needs another striker, and if that isn't possible, then a goalscorer from anyplace on the field. Without one coming, fans and perhaps players will be demoralized by narrowly missing out on Adu.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!