This editorial by the staff of The Shin Guardian
The juxtaposition could not be more stark….
Freddy Adu returning to MLS.
Had I told you that statement would make our publication–say two, three years ago–you would swear the publish date was 2020 and Adu’s resume would include at least one European trophy in hand.
And you’d probably suggest he’d be headed to the starry Galaxy in LA or the nouveau Cosmos playing in some cush, quaint digs off a Flatbush-bound train in Brooklyn.
But that’s not the case. It’s 2011 and the man who Nike once crowned American soccer’s prince-come-king returns to the States with a somewhat unique perception and with a passport that shows a winding–if ultimately fruitless–trail through Europe and one final crusade to the nether regions of Turkey.
Had Adu made this move as recent as January of this year, his homecoming might be perceived or labeled–rightly or wrongly–a flat failure, or more appropriately, the most glorious and spectacular failure of an American abroad yet. Even Eddie Johnson got some run at Fulham. Hey, wasn’t Adu once invited to Old Trafford by the knight himself? Yes and yes.
Didn’t Adu once adorn Pepsi ads, date pop stars and rule the Olympics one year? Wasn’t he the reason YouTube was founded? Yes, yes, yes and no, but he’s got more hits than Rick Astley on the video site.
The Philadelphia Union today announced the signing of attacking midfielder Freddy Adu on a free transfer from Sports Lisboa e Benfica of the Portuguese First Division.
Adu found himself in January toting around the gargantuan ball-and-chain of a contract from Benfica–the club who procured his services from MLS in 2007–and wearing the scarlet letter “A” for “Amateur” as reports of late night tomfoolery and practice pitch unprofessionalism leaked out to the media from the several player trials and loans he went on (Belenenses, Aris and more). Every pushpin destination, a coach seemed to challenge his behavior.
But it’s now August and my how quickly perceptions can change, and for Adu this did in all of 30 minutes and then 90 more.
The lead-up began just a few months earlier this annum.
First, a sojourn to to Rizespor in the Turkish 2nd division and if you want split hairs, Adu at this point had exhausted his European destinations.
Sent to a town with less than 100,000 people and no airport, distractions would not be a challenge that Adu had to surmount this time around.
A few goals hopscotched across the internet and a humbled Freddy Adu talked like a changed man in a sincere interview on MLS’s ExtraTimeRadio in March. Of course there were still hints of denial–to quote Adu, “a #10 is a hard role to come in and immediately employ”–but for the most part Adu seemed to have a sense of hitting near rock bottom and a recognition that things needed to be done differently.
Next came, an incredulous international team call-up. Chosen by former US skipper Bob Bradley–who admitted his few observations of Adu came through streamed video of Adu’s games–Adu was thought to be a look-see here in the early going of the 2014 World Cup cycle. Maybe Adu had changed? Had he changed?
It wasn’t until the 65th minute of the penultimate game that Adu even sniffed touchline. The US found itself in a staredown with Panama–neither team wanting to flood the attack at the risk of being counterattacked. The US needed some creativity; something that the nimble feet of Adu have always had in spades.
Bradley called on the forward, into the game he went, a few brisk touches showed some promise and then it happened, a “holy sh*t” type pass on a rope to Landon Donovan blazing a trail up the right flank. The US scored on a combination to Clint Dempsey and Adu at once became the match hero and viable option for the national team for the first time since a two year hiatus from America’s men’s “B” team squad.
Afterwards, Bradley talked about the hard work and earnest effort that Adu was putting in at practice. These were words never associated before in the media with Freddy.
Bradley: “From the start of this camp, Freddy has made progress. So the opportunity tonight was earned on his part.”
Bradley backed up his praise with a starting eleven selection against Mexico. Sure a moment of magic had been worked against Panama, but this would be a dogfight against El Tri, no?
While the story on that day for the US is well told, so, now, is the recount of how Adu–in a sea of Dempsey and Donovan, Chicharito and Dos Santos–held his own.
So now Adu heads to the Philadelphia Union in MLS. The billboard of “failure” isn’t included in the purchase by the Union nor is the glitz he came with half a decade earlier.
The juxtaposition could not be more stark.
Freddy Adu returning to MLS in a quest to “create accomplishment,” not resting on any, because there are none.
That he’s made his way to meat-and-potatoes Philly and with the Union only adds to the contrast.
Adu, in the steely navy blue and gold, asked to prove himself in the league that practically gave him a key and free license 6 years earlier at the closest thing to an early Hollywood club in DC United.
His new coach is his old coach. Taskmaster Piotr Nowak–the same boss who sent him packing from DC United when he was unwilling to accept the grueling practice schedule and play rigor that are hallmarks of his style–is guiding Adu again. This is almost too poetic.
That Adu is in Philadelphia because he improved his defensive and team game is positively Walt Whitman-esque.
It’s not a “change of scenery” play, the Ghanian-American has traveled more than most have in a lifetime.
It’s not one last shot, Adu is only 22.
And don’t call it a resurgence, Adu hasn’t proverbially “been there” before.
More so than any previous kit he has worn, Adu seems primed to lace-up and finally investigate his potential–whatever the ceiling may be–in full professional force.
Call it a “surgence.”
Call it what it is.
Freddy Adu, finally ready to play.