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Trade signals new plateau for Adu's career

There will be attempts to spin the news of Freddy Adu's trade from D.C. United to Real Salt Lake yesterday. United dealt Adu reluctantly, only because it has a chance for a major allocated player. Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger has coveted Adu since coaching him on the US Under-17 team, and owner Dave Checketts wants to give the team a push after two last-place finishes.

Adu and goalkeeper Nick Rimando were traded from D.C. United to Real Salt Lake for goalkeeper Jay Nolly, plus "a major allocation and future considerations, including a share of any future replacement allocation money attributed to Adu, should he be transferred."

More than anything, the deal illustrates that Adu has both benefited and been victimized by the excessive hype that has followed him for five years.

If you believed the hype, by now Adu should have been performing for Real Madrid, not Real Salt Lake. Adu has always been shadowed by unrealistic expectations, and to his credit he was at least able to capitalize financially on the situation.

Adu is indeed a phenomenon, but not in the way in which he has been portrayed. Adu was born in Ghana and moved to the US at age 7, after his mother won a lottery to obtain a visa. Emelia Adu has kept her son's situation in perspective, turning down an offer from FC Internazionale that would have brought Freddy to Milan when he was 12. The Inter contract probably was for about one-10th the $750,000 that has been reported, but Adu was able to leverage that into becoming one of the highest-paid players in MLS at age 14.

Even now, Ellinger is being quoted as saying Adu is a "great" player. But the fact is that Adu is simply a good player, one who relies on skill since he is neither big enough nor fast enough to survive in the professional ranks any other way.

Adu, 17, should have a long and prosperous pro career -- he has already played three seasons in MLS -- but the move to Utah signals that his career has reached a plateau.

Adu spent the past two weeks training with Manchester United. But that is also deceptive, since Adu is unlikely to ever appear for United. He is the type of player who could thrive if surrounded by technical players.

Another part of the equation is that Adu has been able to emerge from the system on the strength of his skillful play. But he has not completely grasped the necessary tactical aspects of the game; this is something that simply takes time for many players, and the patience of D.C. coach Peter Nowak apparently was exhausted.

Now, Nowak and general manager Dave Kasper can go after up-and-coming talent in South America. United has had good luck with Argentine players, and Kasper recently made a scouting trip to Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, Brazil, that will likely pay off.

United won the MLS regular-season title but faded in the final weeks of the season, falling to the Revolution, 1-0, in the Eastern Conference championship. Adu fit in well with D.C., probably the most technical team in MLS, but it was becoming clear that United needed to add midfield muscle and up-front finishing. An experienced Argentine and/or Brazilian or two could transform D.C. into a factor in the Champions Cup next year.

Real Salt Lake apparently is welcoming the Adu hype. But it will need much more than Adu to transform itself.

Mystery continues to surround Juergen Klinsmann's refusal to accept the position of US national team coach.

Last Friday, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati named Bob Bradley as US interim coach, reopening the search process. This was a pragmatic move; Bradley is the most accomplished coach produced by the US system since Bruce Arena and seemed destined to become the national team coach.

Bradley should have been allowed to ease into the role, and he still might be able to. He can get some on-the-job training in the next few months, but at some point he will have to start concentrating on the Olympic team.

Though this seems awkward, other countries have similarly struggled with the national team coaching position. Germany settled on Klinsmann in the 2006 World Cup runup as almost a last resort. That was Klinsmann's first and only coaching experience.

Indeed, Klinsmann had a strange tenure with Germany, residing in California and imposing "American-style" performance-enhancing regimens on the Mannschaft. Klinsmann grasped the situation better than other veteran German coaches, placing his faith in a combination of young players and proven stars such as Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose, and benefiting from an advantageous draw in the World Cup.

It may be that Klinsmann sees the US national team clearly, as well. A few months or a couple years from now, the situation could improve. Klinsmann, or another big name, could return to consideration.

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