It’s been well reported that the initial steps to bring Freddy Adu to Tampa Bay were taken by head coach Thomas Rongen. Adu and Rongen have a strong bond that was forged back when the midfielder was a part of U.S. youth nationals squads that Rongen managed. Stories of text exchanges between a player and coach are amusing, but there was still the important matter of bringing Rowdies President and General Manager Farrukh Quraishi into the loop before Adu could sign on the dotted line.
“Well I trust Thomas implicitly. He knows how I think and I know how he thinks. I don’t think Thomas would’ve come to me if he really didn’t believe that Freddy could really help this team and that he could help Freddy,” says Quraishi. “There’s a reason Thomas is our coach. I have a lot of faith in his ability and I think he’s particularly good at helping young players. Even though Freddy’s been on the scene a long time, he’s still a relatively young player. Given their history together, I had no qualms about Freddy coming in. We did have our conversation prior to his coming in, as we do with all our players. We spoke about the philosophy of our club and how we operate. He said all the right things so I had no hesitation bringing him.”
If there was one possible sticking point to the deal, it was the potential disruption to the excellent locker room chemistry that has been established nearly halfway through the season. Fair or unfair, media scrutiny and hype has followed Adu to whichever club he lands with. Too much focus and speculation on just one player can be a recipe for discord in any locker room. The club has already taken steps to limit Adu’s exposure by declining media requests for the player until he makes his debut.
“Obviously there’s a concern whenever you bring in any new player, whether it’s a Freddy Adu or any other player the chemistry will be affected. That was part of our calculation,” says Quraishi. “In the conversation I had with Freddy, we were very candid about the fact that we put together a squad in which the character and the harmony are second to none. We didn’t want to do anything to disrupt that because we’re very much focused on winning a championship this year. So that was very much a part of our discussion and it’s one of the discussions we had with Freddy. He understood that, otherwise we wouldn’t have brought him in. If there was any kind of reluctance on his part to be a part of what we built, I think we would’ve had no hesitation going in another direction.”
It’s still early in the process, but Quraishi believes that Adu is starting harmonize with his new teammates. Outside of the Rongen relationship, Quraishi thinks that the organization’s foundation and approach to managing players are appealing factors to the well-traveled Adu.
“I’m hoping, and I think we all are, that he’ll have an opportunity to really get some games under his belt here and be a part of what we believe is something special without the burden of having to carry a team,” says Quraishi. “We do expect him to perform well for us, but we believe that we have a squad that will give him the support that he needs not just on the on the field but off it as well. We don’t just look at players as a commodity. We take a very holistic approach in the way that we manage the club. We have things like a sports psychologist, a nutritionist and a yoga instructor. We try to do things in a way that addresses the whole rather than just the physical. I believe it’s a good environment for a player like Freddy to thrive.”
Don’t expect to see Adu suited up on Saturday against Edmonton. The Rowdies are still waiting to receive the necessary international clearances before he can make his debut. That’s fine by Quraishi, who thinks waiting another week will give Adu much needed time to fully integrate into the squad. Quraishi is clear that Adu will have to earn his spot on a Rowdies squad that has gone unbeaten for much of the season and sits atop the league’s combined points table.
“We’re very happy with the squad that we’ve got, so it probably would have been unfair to change the lineup after bringing in one player on such short notice,” says Quraishi. “People have to earn the right to play and Freddy’s still got to do that. And he’ll have a full week next week to do that.”
IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES