Freddy Adu's future with Philadelphia Union in question

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The Union's lack of a target forward has meant that most of Adu's service hasn't led to goals. (Michael Perez/AP file photo)

Freddy Adu has played his final game for the Philadelphia Union. 

The Union's biggest name and most expensive player was not on the gameday roster for Saturday's season-ending matchup with the New York Red Bulls at PPL Park. But the matter extends deeper than that. According to multiple sources, the Union's coaching staff intends for Adu to remain off the field for as long as he is on the team's roster. 

Although Adu's individual skills remain at a high level, his lack of consistency has frustrated the team and its fans alike since his arrival in Philadelphia last summer. It has since emerged that Adu has at times been a disruptive force in the locker room, and has unsettled the chemistry of a group that includes a number of promising young players. 

When the Union signed Adu last year, he was expected to be the catalyst of the team's offense. Indeed, Adu himself expected much the same thing. But Adu was rarely played in his favored playmaking midfield position under former manager Peter Nowak. 

Adu - a native of Ghana who emigrated to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in his early years - has achieved some success under current manager John Hackworth.

For most of Hackworth's tenure this season, Adu has played as a right winger in a three-forward line. But the Union's lack of a target forward has meant that most of Adu's quality service for teammates has not led to goals. 

He has registered just five goals and one assist in 1,468 minutes over 24 games this year. He has started 20 of those games, but has only played 90 minutes in five of them - and the last came on July 8. 

Adu has also struggled with injuries at times this season. Most recently, he strained his left quadriceps muscle after scoring two goals in a 3-1 home win over the Houston Dynamo, and he did not play in three straight games after that.

He returned to the field in a 58-minute start at Houston on October 20, but did not play in this past Wednesday's game at Kansas City due to what the Union called a coach's decision. 

Exactly what the Union will do with Adu during the offseason is unclear. They cannot just cut him, as there remains one full year on his contract. His $519,000 guaranteed salary - the 21st-highest in a league of 554 players - makes him difficult to trade within Major League Soccer unless the Union agrees to continue paying most of that salary. 

A transfer out of MLS to a European club may be more likely, but it carries its own difficulties. Adu's history of struggles in Europe still resonates on the other side of the Atlantic. 

The Union have not been afraid in the past to bench high-salary players who they wanted to get rid of but could not. Colombian defender Juan Diego González is one such example.

González came to Philadelphia August of 2010. He was paid a prorated $184,462.50 guaranteed that year, and $193,462.50 in 2011.

He played in six straight games after being signed, then sat out four, played one more, and never saw the field again for the first team. González did play in some reserve league games, as well as the Union's high-profile exhibition game that summer against Real Madrid. But that was it.

Despite being the Union's fifth-highest-paid player in 2011, González did not play a single minute in any league games that entire season. 

It's not yet known whether the Union are willing to do that to Adu. It is known, though, that prominent figures within the organization are tired of Adu's lack of commitment and team ethic.

After Saturday's game, a 3-0 loss, Union manager John Hackworth publicly denied that any decision has been made as to Adu's future, and also denied that Adu has been a disruptive presence in the locker room.

Hackworth told reporters in his postgame interview Saturday that he and Adu "had a good talk and agreed we just need to have a little bit of separation from the year, and all of the emotions, and things like that."

"Then we’ll make some good decisions going forward for both of us," Hackworth added.

Hackworth noted that he and Adu "have a long history," going back to when Hackworth coached Adu in the United States national team's under-17 residency program.

"Despite what people think, we’re pretty close," Hackworth said. "I want what’s best for Freddy. I expect a lot out of him. He expects a lot out of himself. We’ll have a heart-to-heart talk and see what’s best for both of us."

There is certainly time for things to change during the offseason. But for now questions remain as to Adu's future in Philadelphia.