Age at MLS Cup: 30
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
ALL COMPETITIONS IN 2020:
A big and skilled forward, Adi twice scored 16 goals in his five years with the Portland Timbers, including a 2015 campaign that ended with an MLS Cup championship. After a season with FC Cincinnati in 2019, Adi moved over the #HeavenIsReal side of the #HellIsReal rivalry, where he a reunited with Caleb Porter, his coach in Portland. Although he didn’t see a lot of minutes on account of another fine season by Gyasi Zardes, Adi was still a valuable contributor to the championship effort, as Josh will explain.
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“Fanendo is one of those guys where there’s an immediate feeling of relief that he’s on your team so you don’t have to face him during a game. He’s just an absolute handful, man. He’s got a big body and he knows how to use that big body, plus he’s very skilled as well. He’s got soft feet and good movement in the box. So immediately, I was like, ‘Thank you, God, that we’ve got him on our team.’ But then you realize you’re going to have to face him every day in training, so that’s an immediate buzzkill. (laughs)
“He’s someone who came into the locker room and accepted his role. When I say ‘accept your role’ it’s not like I mean he doesn’t want to play. We all want to play. But it’s about being a good teammate when your number isn’t called. I think he was perfect in accepting that. He’s a great locker room guy. He’s not the most talkative guy, but when he does talk, it’s either very intelligent or very funny. When he speaks, a lot of people listen. He added a lot to the locker room this year.
“I never really talked to him about this, so I might be way off, but I don’t think I am, but as soon as the playoffs started, I feel like he was someone who took on a much bigger leadership role. The way my locker is situated at the stadium, my locker is first as guys come in. He would usually start with me and just kind of bounce around the locker room to each of the starters and just kind of go over their role with them, and what the team needed from them. He was just making sure that each person knew what was expected of them. I think that was huge going forward, just to have the leadership of a guy who’s been in the final before and won it, and has had so much experience, to just have him checking in on people in a selfless way and making sure everyone was prepared. I thought that was huge and had a big effect on guys.
“For me, sometimes it was just about making sure I was organizing in the back or on set pieces. I pride myself on that, but to go over it with somebody like him, like I said, when he speaks, people listen. So when he’s talking to me, I’m not brushing it off. I’m paying attention to what a guy like that is saying. Sometimes he would talk to me about the way a specific forward plays and making sure that I’m checked in and on the same page about how to defend a certain forward. It was just cool to see him step into that role. As a defender, it’s good hearing information like that. As much information as you can give me before a game, I will accept it. I don’t know the details of what he talked about with the others, but that was my experience.”
[NOTE: To see a clickable list of earlier installments of this Josh Williams series or other MLS Cup related posts, please click HERE.]
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