This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Aquestion that was prompted Monday afternoon by a transaction - the biggest trade ever pulled off by a pro sports franchise in Utah - sounded downright rhythmic and almost lyrical: What does Freddy Adu mean to you?
The answer, even if it's all good and gets even better, might be short-lived and short-spoken.
But the name alone means something to most sports fans, even those who wouldn't know a two-touch pass from a bicycle kick.
What exactly Adu is best-known for is - well, being young.
The 17-year-old soccer star made national and international headlines when he signed his first pro contract with DC United when he was all of 14. Since then, he's spent most of his time trying to live up to the hype surrounding his deal and the subsequent marketing built around him. Nike signed him to a $1 million deal before he signed with DC United, and he also has appeared in Sierra Mist commercials with none other than Pele.
He's been seen as the future of American soccer.
A heavy burden for one yet so youthful.
And that ongoing effort to improve and conquer, in part, is what caused him to agree to play with Real Salt Lake in a suddenly announced deal that started two weeks ago when, according to RSL coach John Ellinger, "We were joking around about getting Freddy Adu."
Everybody quit laughing when the deal got real on Monday.
Adu was acquired mostly for cash, with backup goalkeepers also a part of the equation. But measured against the marquee value of his name, the overall dollar amount of the contract for this coming season - $550,000, with Major League Soccer paying about $400,000 of the whole and RSL being on the hook for the remaining $150,000 - isn't overly outrageous.
His impact for RSL is double-barreled: The draw of his name, which is meant to sell tickets and stir the community at a time when the club's financials are being evaluated in regard to its public funding for a new stadium, and the effects of his game, which, thus far, is propped more on yet-unrealized star potential than actual results.
Asked to rate which of the two carries more impact right now, Marcelo Balboa, a former U.S. National Team player and soccer analyst for ESPN, said, "His name is a little bigger [than his game]."
He also said: "Freddy's got the potential to play. It's a matter of fitting in. This is a place he'll get to play. He'll be the focus of the team. It's a matter of growing up and maturing. He's fast enough to get away from players. He needs to work on his strength."
Added Dean Howes, RSL's CEO: "I think this will have a real effect on attendance. And Freddy looks at this as a chance to come here and show his talents."
In his three seasons with DC United, Adu, eager for more playing time and an increased role on that team, frequently butted heads with coaches. He showed flashes of brilliance, but also stretches of sulky, less-stellar play.
Reunited with Ellinger, who worked with the attacking midfielder on junior national teams, it is speculated that Adu might finally gain an opportunity to develop and show his skills.
That seems like good news for RSL, but if Adu were to finish off the final season of his four-year deal originally signed with DC United with a flurry in Salt Lake City, it would surprise no one for him to bolt out of Utah and entirely out of MLS in favor of playing in the English Premier League shortly thereafter.
He trained with Manchester United recently and was said to be unspectacular, at least on a relative scale.
"You would like to think he'll stay here," Balboa said. "But all players want to get to the highest level. Does he want to go to Europe? Not to sit on the bench. It will be an important season for him - to catapult him to that highest level."
Technically, Adu could leave RSL in August, but, regardless of how he plays, that is not expected. "We anticipate him being with us through '07," Howes said.
"There's a good chance he'll be here in '08, as well," said RSL general manager Steve Pastorino.
For that to happen, Real would have to kick in larger sums of money to cover a new "designated-player" contract, and Adu, of course, would have to want to stay. If neither of those occur, and a prominent club elsewhere wants to sign him, that franchise would then pass cash to RSL, which could use those funds to secure additional new players.
What does any of that mean to you?
What does Freddy Adu mean to you?
It means you might quite rhythmically and lyrically drop some cash on the barrel to check him out. He might draw you in to see if the kid is for real. And, if he is, you might do it again, and again, and again.
But be warned.
If he's that good, he'll be saying goodbye before he hits 20. And, then, you'll be calling him Freddy Adieu.