Union team officials weren't talking late Thursday afternoon. They will have plenty to say on Friday.

Even with several reports that the team would be signing 22-year-old forward Freddy Adu, and even though the Union have called a news conference for noon on Friday, multiple Union team officials would not confirm or deny the news that was first reported by SoccerbyIves.net.

Maybe it's superstition. Or the fact that these transfer deals always have the potential to hit a last-minute snag. Adu's rights are owned by Portugal's Benfica.

Richard Motzkin, Adu's agent, was unavailable for comment Thursday evening. None of the reports mentioned contract terms.

On the assumption that the deal goes through, the biggest question is: Does it make the Union appreciably better?

In essence, Adu would be replacing 31-year-old Carlos Ruiz, making the Union younger and much more athletic.

Ruiz, who was criticized for a lack of hustle, still was a finisher, and had a team-high six goals before having his rights transferred to Veracruz of Mexico's second-division Liga de Ascenso.

By comparison, Adu never scored more than three goals in his three seasons with D.C. United, when his coach was none other than Union team manager Peter Nowak.

Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald, in an excellent post on Thursday (www.philly.com/tgk), pointed out that Adu and Nowak didn't have the most harmonious relationship in their first go-around.

Then again, Adu was 14 at the time. He's been through a lot, going from being the future of U.S. soccer, to the forgotten man, to a resurrected player who played extremely well for the United States in the Gold Cup final, a 4-2 loss to Mexico on June 25.

And Nowak has matured as a coach, although, by all accounts, he hasn't mellowed and runs some highly competitive practices.

Still, he won the MLS Cup with D.C. United and has the Union (8-5-9) in serious contention in their second season.

To many in the soccer world, Adu has always been more hype than substance. That doesn't mean he isn't a talented player. He possesses the most difficult skill in soccer, the ability to break down a defender, and is willing to use it.

Imagine Adu and Danny Mwanga playing as a forward tandem for the Union. There would be plenty of nervous defenders.

Most of all, the Union are making this move for one reason - to win.

They don't need the publicity and don't need - at least until PPL Park expands - to sell many more tickets. The Union are averaging 18,263 fans per game in their 18,500-seat stadium.

Before word got out on Thursday about Adu, Nowak addressed how disappointed he was in the team's recent performance. He felt the team was adversely affected when it was announced that Ruiz was leaving. Nowak made the announcement after a 2-1 loss to Colorado at PPL Park on July 29, the team's first home loss of the season. The players obviously knew the news before that game, since Ruiz didn't play.

Forward-midfielder Veljko Paunovic admitted the Union were caught off-guard by the Ruiz happenings, but didn't offer any excuses.

"We are big guys and have to deal with it," he said. "It's part of the game."

Following the loss to Colorado, the Union played a 1-1 draw at Chicago and returned for another 1-1 draw at home against Houston. In both games, the Union squandered 1-0 leads.

Nowak also missed the previous two games after undergoing a back procedure. He is back and said on Thursday that he told the team in no uncertain terms he hasn't been happy with their recent performance.

"We need to improve our energy and get back to the mentality we had in the beginning of the season," he said.

Bringing in Adu should solve the energy problem.

Adu shouldn't be asked to be the Michael Jordan of soccer the way he was when he first turned professional. It didn't work the first time and won't now. He has the ability to add to an impressive group of emerging talent.

His addition will allow the Union to play out the homestretch with no distractions and no more excuses.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com, or @sjnard on Twitter.