Freddy Adu’s Failure Illustrates USA’s Inability to Understand Soccer Development
In the summer of 2011, numerous US soccer pundits lauded the return of Freddy Adu after a two-year absence from the men’s national team.
The spark that ignited the fire was Adu’s midfield pass that began a counterattack. Though the counterattack did lead to a goal, it seemed the pundits who praised the American only saw what they wanted to see: A player once coveted, returning to prominence.
The adoration for Adu went on for quite some time following his, average at best, performances at the 2011 Gold Cup. Now after 14-months as a member of the Philadelphia Union, it looks like Adu has exhausted all the brotherly love he acquired.
As the sole designated player for the Philadelphia Union, earning nearly $600,000 a year, according to sources, Adu was the player the club planned to build around. Even Philadelphia fan-favorite Sebastian Le Toux was traded, so the club could accommodate the attacking midfielder. However, Philadelphia didn’t stop there as it continued to blow up the squad over the course of the summer in hopes of turning around what became a Toronto FC-esque season.
Amazingly, Adu is still only 23-years old. More amazingly, Adu has been a professional since 2004, when he became one of the youngest professional athletes in American history at the age of 14. Obviously, times have change for both Adu and Major League Soccer. When the American was signed by DC United, the league was looking for both credibility and exposure. MLS got the latter as media outlets clamored to interview the player, but the former became even more elusive as many criticized the league for signing a 14-year old to a professional contract.
Since those early days, Adu has done little to reinforce the expectations that were placed upon him. However, just as Adu hasn’t lived up to expectations as the “second coming” of US soccer, MLS must be held accountable for allowing a boy to play in the country’s premier soccer league against men five, 10 and 15 years older. Consider Adu was playing professionally at the age of 14, which is the age countries such as Spain, France and Italy allow youth teams to begin playing 11 versus 11.
Just as Adu’s meteoric rise in DC had begun, it ended abruptly. After three seasons in the nation’s capital, Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake – at the time one of the worst teams in MLS and nothing like the club of today. Eleven matches and one goal – from a penalty – later and Adu was off on a European adventure that lasted four and half years, spanned four countries and five clubs.
Some decent play during that time encouraged fans of the men’s national team that Adu could finally join Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as the fulcrum of the squad. However, with Adu’s now failed return to MLS, the biggest concern should be whether he still has a career left to salvage.
Perhaps, it’s the American soccer fans that do not want to give up on someone that held so much promise. But with a big salary comes big expectations, and with seven goals and two assists in 35 games, those expectations are not being met. It looks especially bad when the team finishes outside the playoffs in a league where over half the clubs qualify. It also looks bad when Philadelphia moved Le Toux, Danny Mwanga and Danny Califf for allocation money, Jorge Perlaza and Michael Lahoud. Perlaza only played twice before the club terminated his contract and increasing look like the laughingstock of the league. Luckily, Toronto, Portland and Chivas have all garnered ridicule in 2012.
Many pundits continue to write: Adu’s Time is Running Out or Adu is Running Out of Options. Simply put, Freddy Adu IS out of options. It’s time the Union and all of MLS put their checkbooks away and let Adu fade out. Mentally and physically Adu has been surpassed by a new generation of soccer players and like Danny Szetela and Santino Quaranta, looks like another lost cause in American soccer.