THE FRUSTRATION on Carlos Valdes' face was evident.
He knew that in a season that could probably be turned into a TV mini-drama, this was a chance for a positive chapter.
So after the Union bowed out of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday, Valdes didn't hold back.
"The most important thing was winning this game," Valdes said, following a disappointing 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City. "Being in the final was a chance to make history with the Philadelphia Union. I feel so bad, because I wanted to play in the final of the U.S. Open Cup."
History, it would have been. It would have been the first time a Philadelphia-area franchise hoisted the trophy since the Ukrainian Nationals did it in 1966. It would have been the first time a Philadelphia-area team made the final since Bucks County's United German Hungarians came up short in 1993.
It would have been a chance to creat something positive in this season of turmoil, much as Toronto FC did earlier this season by capturing the Canadian championship from Vancouver, despite languishing at the bottom of the MLS standings. It would have been a chance to bring some hardware back to the Chester waterfront. It would have kept all those "WE WANT THE CUP" promotional T-shirts printed by the Union this week out of the bottom of its supporters' T-shirt piles.
"I think we made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage of them," Valdes said of Sporting KC. "For some moments of the game, we looked confused; we couldn't connect a lot of passes, basically in the last part of the field. When you play like this, in these types of games, semifinals, you pay a lot for your mistakes."
It's inevitable that people will look to find someone to blame. Whether it be the officiating (which, in my opinion, is always too easy), Lionard Pajoy, Freddy Adu, Zac MacMath for letting in what many felt was a soft goal, at the end of the day, teams lose. Not individual play, or players. It's easy to place blame, but bottom line is the Union knew the 4-0 win from its earlier meeting with Sporting KC wasn't indicative of an opponent that sits first in MLS' Eastern Conference. Did SKC flop around like fish out of water for much of the second half? Absolutely. Did it appear as if Roger Espinoza suffered some sort of seizure multiple times? Without question.
But did SKC control the match and its own destiny? Food for thought.
"At the end of the day, sometimes you play well and you lose the game; sometimes you play so-so and you win," Valdes said. "We will have time to talk about this game and learn from the mistakes we made today. Mentally, we have to be in a better condition."
For his entire career thus far, fans have put a spotlight on Freddy Adu, watching every move he makes, every pass he's completed and every shot he's taken. That hasn't changed since his arrival in Philadelphia, where, though he's not recognized by the club as a designated player, his six-figure salary and high-profile name make the 23-year-old an important piece of Philly's puzzle.
Adu let out some of his frustrations Monday on "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet, where fans got to see a side of a kid who is sick of everyone else's expectations.
"I laugh sometimes at what people say, and when I look back at what was expected of me as a 14-year-old kid [in 2004], I mean it's unbelievable," said Adu. "I mean, I was 14, man; I'm undeveloped, what am I going to do? I just think people put all these unrealistic expectations on you and then act surprised when you don't meet them."
Today, a seemingly wiser (but not that much older) Adu says he is going back to basics, using his God-given talents to his full advantage, while still trying to learn as much as he can to better his soccer career. It's hard to tune out all the hype, but it's his No. 1 task as he tries to play the role of teammate and not superstar.
"My hope with Freddy," interim coach John Hackworth said, "is that he is turning a corner in his career where he understands that he doesn't have to go out and pull off amazing plays to have his teammates or the press or the fans appreciate him. Being in Philly puts a premium on that you work hard for yourself and for your teammates, and when you do that, it's been my experience in this town the fans respond and give you the energy you didn't know you had."
On Tuesday, D.C. United announced that Sixers minority owners Eric Thohir and Jason Levien purchased a portion of the MLS franchise, partnering with longtime owner Will Chang. Next up, the tough task of moving United into a new, soccer-specific facility, far from the historic but decrepit RFK Stadium.
The area under consideration appears to be Buzzard Point, home of MLB's Washington Nationals and Nationals Park. Plenty of space in the area to construct a stadium and a training facility, and maybe share parking with the Nationals.
Sounds easy enough, except now the franchise must slice through all the red tape from the City Council, with the capital gains provided by having owners like Thohir, an Indonesian businessman, and Levien, a high-profile business attorney.
According to a report Wednesday in the Washington Post, the two are ready and willing to discuss plans for erecting what would be MLS' 17th soccer-specific stadium, provided the city can assist with "land acquisition, infrastructure and tax incentives."
Definitely a story to keep an eye on, considering the threat of parking and amusement taxes the Union now faces in Chester after acquiring "land acquisition, infrastructure and tax incentives" after it promised to build a multimillion-dollar complex, with PPL Park as the crown jewel.