SALT LAKE CITY -- Freddy Adu was traded Monday from D.C. United to Real Salt Lake, ending a sometimes tumultuous three-year run in Washington for the highly touted teenager who clashed with his coach and was often frustrated by his role.
The 17-year-old will move to an MLS franchise in need of a marketable star as it hopes to boost attendance and gain support for a new stadium. He will also get to be an attacking midfielder, a position he never played consistently with United.
"It will be fun to be reunited with him. It will be even more rewarding to have him score goals for us instead of against us," said Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger, Adu's former coach on the U.S. Under-17 club.
Adu's stated goal is to play for a European team, and he becomes eligible to transfer to a club outside the United States once he turns 18 on June 2. He recently spent two weeks working out with Manchester United in England.
Salt Lake general manager Steve Pastorino said Real hopes getting Adu into a new environment will keep him happy and stateside.
"Our intent is to keep him here for several years," Pastorino said.
D.C. United also sent goalkeeper Nick Rimando to Real Salt Lake. In return, D.C. United will receive a major player allocation, the rights to goalkeeper Jay Nolly and future considerations.
Adu became the youngest player in MLS history when D.C. United chose him No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft, but his youthful temperament showed almost immediately when he was used mostly as a substitute early in the season.
In Salt Lake, he won't be coming off the bench.
"Freddy is a pretty lethal player," Ellinger said. "I think he'll definitely make us a pretty potent offense."
Although he ended up starting 14 games as a rookie and 16 in his second season, he complained publicly both years about playing time and said the team had ruined his chances of making the U.S. team for the 2006 World Cup. Coach Peter Nowak suspended Adu for a 2005 playoff after one such outburst.
"It is never easy to part with players, especially one like Freddy," Nowak said. "Freddy desired to play a different role than the one we offered here at D.C., so we hope this move can aid that wish."
This year, Adu had a regular spot in the lineup and started 29 of United's 32 games, but he played on the wing instead of his preferred position in midfield. He was dejected when Nowak removed him for a substitute in the 65th minute of D.C. United's final game, a playoff loss to New England, and afterward said there were "serious talks" in the works to have him playing elsewhere next season.
Ellinger said he has talked to Adu and expects his welcome in Salt Lake City, where a news conference was scheduled for Tuesday, will keep him in the U.S. league.
"He's very happy about a fresh start," Ellinger said. "Pretty much everybody loves him wherever he goes."
Adu finished with 11 goals and 17 assists in 87 appearances for United, and helped the team win the MLS Cup during his rookie season.
He has played regularly for U.S. youth national teams and became the youngest player to appear for the full U.S. team last Jan. 22 against Canada, although he was never a serious candidate for the World Cup team.