The onus is on Freddy Adu for the next two weekends. The Union need Adu to be the player who dazzled in the first half against the New York Red Bulls at PPL Park, or their hopes for a second playoff berth will likely be dashed.
Philadelphia needs Adu to be the guy who deserves to be the highest paid player on the club's roster. Adu must step up, throw off the stink of "suspended because of an internal team matter," and lead the Union through his play to two victories against Chicago Fire and D.C. United.
The Union need six points over the next two matches to keep any semblance of a playoff birth within grasp. Adu has to be the guy to get the Union there.
It is no secret that the 23 year old Adu has had a checkered career. He took a rather tumultuous path across Europe, before finally ending up at the friendly confines of PPL Park.
There have been moments of brilliance mixed with many head-scratching incidents. Adu is a gifted player who does not contribute as much as he should, based on his salary or expectations.
If one looks at statistics, Adu has contributed three goals and one assist in 1054 minutes played this season. That is not good enough for a player expected to be a major contributor.
As of now, there is not an argument against that thought.
Adu has been handed the keys to drive the attack, and he has failed to be that catalyst. It's possible that the failure of the U-23 team to make the Olympics may have contributed to his performance during this campaign.
Peter Nowak was his mentor, so perhaps his departure was another bad development for Adu's psyche, on top of the aforementioned early year disappointment of the Olympics. Nothing can excuse whatever went on before the away match at Red Bull Arena, however.
The former American international did something - it's still undisclosed exactly what it was - and was suspended by John Hackworth. He was out the night before the match at xFinityLive, in the stadium complex of south Philadelphia, ostensibly collecting phone numbers from young ladies, while the rest of the team was traveling north.
After giving Red Bull a difficult time at PPL Park, in the first contest against them, without Adu the offense was lethargic, and lost 2-0 away. The Union have not been good on the road at all this year, and they may have lost 2-0 even if the incident had not occurred and Adu had been there, but it was a glaring mistake in judgement.
The incident made Adu look bad, given the good feelings around the club after the Nowak departure and subsequent improved play from the rest of the squad under Hackworth.
Adu needs to assume the mantle of responsibility that comes with being the highest paid player on the squad and a veteran of both MLS and the US Men's National Team. On and off of the field.
He must use his agility and guile to get the ball to the forwards in a position for them to cause havoc.
Lionard Pajoy is not a playmaker, and he needs the ball put to him in spots where his abilities can be utilized best. As of now, Adu has not synced with Pajoy, but as a breaking point in the season's schedule approaches, the time has come.
He has to keep his head and keep his teammates in check when things get rough. Adu hasn't proven he has improved in regards to physical play, still losing balls while attempting to retain possession and not showing a fire that would provide his teammates with an example to follow.
The Union are mostly small in stature and have a tendency to be susceptible to physical play, as evidenced by the Hoppenot-Rivas-McInerney dustup this past weekend.
In short, Adu needs to be more of a leader on this team. I am not suggesting that he takes any duties away from Carlos Valdes, who has done an admirable job taking over for Danny Califf as team captain.
What I am suggesting is that if this team has any chance whatsoever to make the playoffs, Adu has to contribute more. He needs to be more of an offensive threat, he needs to make the players around him better, he needs to lead the offensive attack with his talent and abilities.
He needs to make sure that opponents need to know where he is at all times when the ball is moving forward.
The Union are getting to the point of the season where points are becoming an unbelievably precious commodity, and Philadelphia has really struggled on the road this season. The Fire and DCU have both taken three points from the Union in 1-0 victories during this campaign, but both matches were within reach for Philadelphia..
Chicago comes to PPL and then, the following Sunday, the Union march into RFK. Six points is the only acceptable result, from the two games, if the playoffs are to remain a possibility.
The time has come, Adu. Now is your chance. Take it.