Op-Ed: The Surgence Of Freddy Adu

This editorial by the staff of The Shin Guardian

Freddy Adu, surging against Mexico...

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.

How one gets back on the map...

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.

Freddy Adu

The good ol' days in DC (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

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.

25 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 9:26 PM

    Doesn’t he need to produce at a decent level for a consistent basis before we declare a surgence, “re” or otherwise?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/11 at 9:34 PM

      No, I don’t think so. But I am taking a bet he’s going to “show” his best now.

      Fair point that this column may be better off 3 months from now.


    • Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/08/13 at 9:59 AM

      His national team performances have never not been consistently decent. And usually a couple steps up from decent.

      His club performances, for whatever reason, have not followed.

      But you ignore his consistently good play in the ’11 Gold Cup, the ’09 Gold Cup, and the ’07 U20s.


      • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/08/13 at 10:07 AM

        The two Gold Cups you mention entail a total of four appearances, in one of which he was completely awful (vs. Honduras ’09).

        Yeah, he pretty consistently ripped it up at the youth levels for the Nats, but if we confine ourselves to senior teams it’s pretty safe to say he’s never produced on a consistent basis.


    • Posted by merlinwoadie03 on 2011/08/21 at 3:57 PM

      I happened to go to a uni where a broad went abroad in Monaco…Coincidentally, Freddie Adu was also there. He crushed real hard for her. You could even say pined for her. But as far as I could tell he still had some maturation issues. Like if a girl broke a stick while playing Rock Band…Purely hypothetical…would [you] make her replace it???


  2. Posted by Neil W. Blackmon on 2011/08/11 at 10:20 PM



  3. Posted by Fellaini's-Fro on 2011/08/11 at 10:41 PM

    America always loves stories of redemption. It’s in our national fabric.


  4. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/08/12 at 5:04 AM

    On a somewhat related note this has been a banner year for the MLS in terms of having story lines for USMNT fans that aren’t necessarily MLS fans.


  5. Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/08/12 at 6:51 AM

    Whatever you say about the guy, he doesn’t give up. Keeps moving forward. I respect that. And have we ever heard anything terrible about his behavior? fights? excessive drinking? saying stupid stuff? Bad lockerroom guy?

    No reason not to pull for him.

    I suspect that he and Nowak had a real heart-to-heart on what went wrong before. Presumably, Nowak was satisfied with what he heard and what he’s seen.

    I hope Adu isn’t inserted as a starter. I like to see him as a sub for awhile until his play is so good (if that happens) that it’s a no-brainer that he should start.

    I wish him well.


  6. Posted by Crow on 2011/08/12 at 6:55 AM

    I’ve already commented on this but this move is good for all parties involved. I was calling for it at the Winter Transfer Window, but maybe the timing is even better now.

    Never gonna give…. never gonna give… never gonna give up on Freddy.

    My favorite moment (there werent too many good ones) at the Rose Bowl was the I… I believe… I believe in…. I believe in Freddy Adu chant when he was walking off the field. He seemed to appreciate it.


  7. Posted by Dan on 2011/08/12 at 8:05 AM

    Great piece. Spot on. Adu is the missing link for the Union. This team has been missing a playmaker for two years. This is the one thing they needed most. Now, they have it. The question will be whether Adu fully embraces the role of playmaker or not, and the hope, based on recent history, is that he will.


  8. Posted by Wixson on 2011/08/12 at 9:41 AM

    Well written piece, fun to read. Should be interesting…….


  9. Posted by Kevin O' on 2011/08/12 at 10:15 AM

    One of the better Freddy articles I’ve ever read. Adu would make one fascinating documentary. His story is so complex. He’s very similar to the childhood actor that falls from grace, doomed by media hype and unrealistic fan expectations to grow up and develop too soon. As the piece states, I agree that he hit his bottom in Turkey and I think that’s allowed him to find humility. I’m routing for him. How great is it that he’s working his socks off and graciously accepts MLS, the very league he once scoffed at ever being an option while he was young. One has to swallow a lot of pride and really love the game to do this. Cue the Rocky theme. Go Freddy go!


  10. Posted by Gregorio on 2011/08/12 at 10:17 AM

    Freddy Adu= Gary Coleman?


  11. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2011/08/12 at 11:55 AM

    Excellent article. I really root for this kid, having seen him when he first came to DC United. I’m hoping his experiences have given him some wisdom and that he recognizes that he has to put his head down and work incredibly hard to put himself solidly, and consistently, back in the national team picture. I have every expectation that he will do it.


  12. Posted by Crow on 2011/08/12 at 12:10 PM

    This will definitely help turn the tide. TSG suggested that the Union could be in for a 2nd half swoon and I didn’t believe it. And then the Union starting dropping points. Last week was the worst. Le Toux hits the post for the 10th time this year and Cameron comes right down and ties the game in the dying moments. The Union offense need to start scoring 2 goals sometimes. Maybe 3 once in a blue moon.

    Too bad the Union couldn’t grab Fabio Grosso at LB. (Although I don’t know if they were ever remotely close to doing so) That would have added to the nasty back line Philly has and would have been an amazing wingback pairing with Williams.


  13. Posted by ghettobooty on 2011/08/12 at 12:21 PM

    I think that’s positive

    Now how about Eddie Johnson comes back too?


  14. Posted by kaya on 2011/08/12 at 12:21 PM

    The author seems to know he has reason to believe this is finally going to be Freddy’s *this time*. I still think it sounds far too optimistic, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
    Adu certainly knows how to get into open spaces and pass a ball to smart spot (something that can’t always be said for everyone who’s sported a USMNT jersey), but he also knows how to hold the ball too long, get knocked off it, and get into foul trouble.
    22 is indeed very young… so much so that I wonder if it’s really old enough for Freddy to suddenly become a wise old man…


    • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 1:42 PM

      It is still quite young…but take it from another 22-year old, there’s a huge gap between 16 and 22, especially when you realize in that time that, in the words of Herb Brooks in Miracle, “you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.”


  15. Posted by Alex on 2011/08/12 at 1:06 PM

    Too true. Good for the kid, he can start tapping that potential.
    But, what about the Union? They have a excess of young attacking mids, who do you think will be left off? I could see Mapp getting booted because of his age and consistency (lack of). Adu could take Mapp’s playmaking winger spot in a jiff.


  16. Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/08/12 at 2:37 PM

    Hope he does well, but his tweets today are bothering me. Promoting his own hashtag and as TSG points out, not the Union’s hashtag. I know, seems awfully trivial, but given his history…


  17. Posted by Kevin on 2011/08/12 at 6:17 PM

    Well that’s great for Philly, Adu and the USMNT but I can’t help but wonder what is going on in the head of the Houston FO. I know I wasn’t the only Houston fan asking for him during last years winter window. Great job by philly getting it done but I can’t help but to almost get mad whenever I hear about Adu to philly.


  18. Posted by merlinwoadie03 on 2011/08/21 at 4:58 PM

    don’t mess with drugs guys…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31wcMGdbLAY


  19. […] that writer sheepishly and slowly writing that paragraph. He’s the same one that penned this column […]


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