John Hackworth names Brian Carroll as Philadelphia Union captain, opens up more about Freddy Adu situation
Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth held his first press conference with local media of 2013 on Monday, and used the occasion to name veteran Brian Carroll as the team's captain for the coming season.
"Brian has certainly earned that opportunity through his actions and his character," Hackworth said.
One of the top defensive midfielders in Major League Soccer, Carroll has played 268 games over 10 seasons in the league. This year will be his third in Philadelphia.
Remarkably, in the 22,426 minutes he has spent on the field in MLS, Carroll has never been given a red card.
Hackworth and the assembled media then turned to the continuing saga of Freddy Adu. In the wake of his letter to fans that was published Sunday evening, the Union's manager had more to say about his team's most expensive player.
"Freddy and I have had enough conversations," Hackworth said, adding that Adu's agent, Richard Motzkin, was also involved in those conversations.
"There were some things we wanted to talk about and make sure we understood," Hackworth said, adding that Adu's "stature in the locker room" had become an issue.
Hackworth noted that the Union tried to renegotiate Adu's contract, in order to get Adu's salary below the $519,000 in guaranteed compensation he was paid last year. Adu is the only Designated Player in the Union's three-year history.
"Freddy came back and said 'I'm going to stick with my current situation,' " Hackworth said. He knew [and] made it very clear that was his choice, [and] he knew that if he made that choice, he wasn't going to be coming back as part of the team."
In response to a question on whether Adu might be welcomed back if he changes his mind, Hackworth said "the time has passed."
"This is something that has been in the works for months," Hackworth said. "He is on a long-term contract that makes it hard for a team in this league - with the salary cap restrictions that we have and so forth - to do some things if you have a player like that who is not fitting into your plans."
While Adu's large salary has been the major sticking point in the Union's falling-out with him, Hackworth noted that "a lot of it had to do with the role Freddy would play in our team."
Adu publicly yearned to have a playmaking role in the center of midfield. It is among the most glamorous positions in soccer. Hackworth and his staff, however, preferred to play Adu on the right side of a three-forward front line.
The 23-year-old Ghanaian-American played that position well at times, darting in from the wing or delivering crosses to players in the 18-yard box. But he was never consistently good at it, and gave off mixed signals as to exactly how much he enjoyed the role.
Hackworth went to some length to praise Adu's soccer skills. He said he "wouldn't say it was a mistake" for the Union to have signed him in the first place, and expressed a hope that his professional career might flourish again somewhere else.
"Freddy is a very talented young man - I've said it many for but I don't think many people have an appreciation for Freddy the way I do," Hackworth said. "He certainly didn't meet the very lofty expectations that were placed upon him within our team... that was ultimately what it came down to."
Indeed, Adu did not lack for opportunities to succeed in Philadelphia. He played in 24 games in 2012, the ninth-highest total out of the 25 players who appeared for the Union last year.
"I think he was given plenty of opportunities to play, and play a significant role for us, and be the player we expected him to be when we signed him," Hackworth said. "He's got talent, no question about that, but how he puts that together is up to Freddy."
So what happens now? Hackworth said the Union are trying to sell him to a team in another country.
That would rule out a move to the North American Soccer League, the second-tier league in the United States. Teams in the NASL such as the San Antonio Scorpions, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and soon-to-launch New York Cosmos have been seeking to increase their public profiles as the league seeks to enhance its reputation. Adu could fit the bill if a team wants a splashy signing.
But Hackworth said it is not likely that Adu will remain in the United States.
"I think that's not on Freddy's radar at the moment at all," Hackworth said. "He wants to play first division soccer in the highest league possible and that's been part of the difficulties in this whole process."
Having laid bare his thoughts on Adu, Hackworth then turned to some other subjects. First up was a familiar conundrum for Union fans: what the team should do at left back.
Newly-signed Trinidadian defender Damani Richards is likely to be groomed for the position in the Union's preseason training camp. But Hackworth declared in no uncertain terms that the incumbent, Gabriel Farfan, remains the starter.
Hackworth said that he intends for the Union to keep his preferred 4-3-3 formation this year. That lineup requires an outside back who can get up and down the field a lot, and Farfan fits that bill.
"[Farfan] is without a doubt one of the best left backs in terms of just soccer ability" in MLS, Hackworth said. "He might not be a true left, back but the way that we play and our style, we want our left back to be an attacking left back."
Another player who has often been in the spotlight for the Union is creative midfielder Roger Torres. With Adu gone, he might be able to take a bigger role this year.
But Hackworth admitted that Torres almost didn't get the opportunity.
"Roger is really important to our team, and we threw down the gauntlet at the end of the  season," Hackworth said. "You come back to preseason fit... or you're not going to be part of this team. To his credit, Roger came in the door ready."
Hackworth added that Torres' "fitness is the best I've ever seen in four years, [and] his mentality and approach is different."
"His mentality and approach is different - I think Roger senses that it is time for him to take this opportunity," Hackworth said. "Like any young player, he has developed, and sometimes you develop through hardships."