No country produces a never ending stream of star players. Even South American giants like Argentina and Brazil have their fair share of “the next big thing” that turn out more dud than stud. On the one hand, we as fans deserve share of the blame for rushing to heap praise and feverishly clasp at the next young prospect.
On the other hand, a player may not reach his or her potential for myriad reasons. A bad club situation. An injury. A poor attitude. All of the above.
Yet many Americans cannot stop dwelling on once wunderkid Freddy Adu. And I am one of them.
Blah blah Freddy signed a pro soccer contract as a teenager, dated a teeny bopper pop star princess, and posed for a few ad shoots with Pele. You know this already. But what I recall about Freddy was his electric performance at the youth World Cup – he, along with Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Dax McCarty, played exciting and attacking soccer.
Flash forward a decade or so. Jozy and Bradley both enjoyed a great season in Holland, but eventually returned to MLS. Jozy’s two spells in England were underwhelming, while Bradley’s stint at Roma in Serie A looked promising at the start but then he found himself supplanted by a Belgium star. Dax never left MLS, but has risen to all star status and even gotten to the fringes of the USMNT scene.
Adu, as you know, wandered around Europe for many years, played a short stint in MLS, then went down to the NASL, and has been without a club since the end of 2016. A few years ago, he leveraged his “social media presence” to promote Hoover brand vacuums on his Twitter.
Yet that’s not the greatest indignity he’s suffered.
Recently, he was invited to a trial with a club recently promoted to the topflight of Polish soccer. However, the manager ran to the press to complain when he heard that the CEO had brought in “Freddy Adu.” The coach made disparaging remarks that a keepy-up YouTube sensation would have been a more adequate trialist. Allegedly, the CEO refused to tell the coach the trialist was “Adu” and then claimed it was for the “publicity.”
Basically, Adu, at the age of 28, is a trialist worthy of publicity and little more. Ouch.
Of course, we can also look at a few Brazilian players that faced off with the US team at that youth World Cup. What is Pato doing right now? Or Ganso? Have they reached their potential? Have they even come close?
I feel guilty because I was ecstatic for Adu to sign for Benfica, but could he have been better served by the quiet and hardworking MLS career of Dax McCarty?
We’ll never know. But at least we can always savor the once bright embers from that youth tournament. For a few weeks, Adu could feel the world at his feet. That’s better than most.