GEORGE MURPHY - Sunday, October 4, 2009
Earlier this week, I watched the AEK Athens - Benfica game when I thought to myself: "Wasn't there a yank that played for Benfica at one time?"
Oh wait, I remember who it was. That Adu kid who was supposed to be the savior of American soccer. Freddy, right? How could I forget?
Probably, because, in two seasons in Europe, Fredua Koranteng Adu has played in a total of 27 games, finding the back of the net five times, and hasn't made a significant impact for the National Team.
Yes, Freddy is still only 20 and hopefully has a long career ahead of him, but at what point do American soccer fans start sounding like Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on Pardon The Interruption debating whether or not Freddy should be labeled a "bust".
The expectations were high for Freddy at a young age, but I don't remember one time when Freddy shied away from the spotlight. He always seemed confident that he could shoulder whatever burdens came along with the hope that everyone interested in soccer in this county had that he was, indeed, legit.
I have been a DC United fan ever since MLS started in 1996, attending hundreds of games in the process. Yet, my favorite United memory was when I found out that the MLS forced Dallas to cough up the first pick in the 2004 MLS draft so that Adu would play at RFK.
That may sound silly, but for anyone involved in the Maryland soccer community, this kid was already a legend. One of my friends told the same story every time his name got brought up, (I've still yet to find any proof of it), telling me "I played against Freddy three years ago when he was twelve and he scored four goals in a half".
Did it sound ridiculous that a 12-year old Freddy Adu was playing against 17-year olds? Nope. Freddy had LeBron James type of hype here in the Maryland area before anyone in the country had even heard of him.
After Freddy scored his first-ever professional goal two weeks into his career, it seemed like all of our hopes and expectations were justified and that the kid was indeed a star in the making. United won the 2004 MLS Cup that year and everything seemed to be smooth sailing.
The following summer, in 2005, DC United hosted Chelsea who were coached by Jose Mourinho and who won the English Premier League title the year before. United put up a great fight, but fell to 2-1 thanks to goals from Hernan Crespo and Damian Duff.
Freddy came on as a sub and did a few dances in the corner, but never really looked like he was ready for soccer players who were that big and smart.
However, he was reported by a few newspapers and blogs following the game to have said that Chelsea was a team that he would love to play for, and at the time that seemed like it may become a reality soon enough. I mean, the kid was Freddy Adu; he'd be playing in the Premiership at some point, right?
Well, everything seemed to go down hill after that one game.
Adu had a public spat with head coach Petr Nowak over playing time and formation. Freddy thought that he should be in the playmaker role and starting every game, while Nowak didn't think he was ready and used Adu on the flank, coming off of the bench. Still, Adu never saw a camera or microphone that he didn't like.
He started popping up on Nike ads, and even did a Sierra Mist commercial with the great Pele. Talk about setting the wrong expectations. There were also photos of Freddy, fifteen at the time, drinking and partying with University of Maryland college students.
He was named to the MLS All-Star game in 2005 and 2006, but after Nowak and Adu continued to battle in the media, Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake.
You would think that DC United fans would be devastated over losing their bright young star, right?
In his last two seasons at DC United, Freddy failed to make an impact. He came off to fans as cocky and overhyped, as someone who thought that he was too good for the team and who deserved to be playing top European soccer, and many were happy to see him go.
Only eleven games after being offloaded by DC United, Freddy finally got his chance to move to Europe, sold to Benfica.
Well, I wish I had more to write about.
I wish that I could tell you that Freddy had featured on a number of occasions for the Portugal super club, but the truth is that he only made hand handful of appearances and scored five times - three in the somewhat meaningless cup competitions.
I wish I could tell you that his loan to Monaco was successful.
And I wish I could tell you that Freddy's loan deal to Belenenses will help convince Bob Bradley that Freddy should be included in the 2010 World Cup roster, but I can't.
Freddy had a good showing in the Under-20 World Cup in 2007, leading the team to the quarterfinals. But, other than that, Freddy still hasn't shown us much and seems to be struggling to live up to the hype.
So, at what point do we agree with the naysayers from the beginning who said "Freddy is too small" or "Freddy is not as good as Nike thinks."?
Adu turned 20 in June. Jozy Altidore is a year younger and seems to be years ahead in terms of how he plays. Other youth teammates of Adu's, such as Charlie Davies (23), Michael Bradley (22), Maurice Edu (23), and Robbie Rogers (22) all are making runs at a World Cup spot, while Adu seems, at the moment, to be on the outside looking in.
This season has to be the season where Freddy settles in at a team and asserts himself in the first-team, or he'll likely find himself right back in Major League Soccer with everyone wondering "What ever happened to that Freddy kid, the soccer player that everyone was talking about with Michelle Wie?"
I guess it was all just hype.