sympathy is not a feeling that i thought i would ever feel for freddy adu.
however unlikely it is that i’m feeling that way, the fact of the matter is i do. this is despite the fact that i find the ghana-born, america-refined attacker to be a snot.
to be fair, he has pretty much experienced the rags-to-riches cycle that every immigrant would define as the “american dream.” freddy ended up here by pure freaking chance, winning a visa lottery (yes, they really have lotteries to dertimine who gets to move to america). it was also around this time that his special talents were recognized. all reports show that despite struggling to keep the adu family’s heads above water, his mother attempted to keep her son grounded by turning down the advances of european giants.
instead she allowed freddy to ink a deal with MLS in 2007, keeping her boy at home with the local club, d.c. united. starting his professional career at the age of 14 brought even more hype, with the american media outlets stopping just short of hailing freddy as the second coming of pelé, and at the very least proclaiming he could walk on water. everyone was talking about him: wilbon and kornheiser argued his merits, 60 minutes did a piece on him, and he was even on letterman.
imagine yourself as a 14-16 year old, hearing all of these “experts” tell you how amazing you are/will be. think how difficult that would be to digest and it not inflate your ego. my head certainly would have grown stratospherically huge if that happened to me. so while the kid wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he was certainly getting used to being fed off of one.
but contrary to everyone’s professional predictions, the start of adu’s career in MLS could hardly be considered “flying.” quarreling with coaches and indifferent performances lead to a disappointing tally of just 14 goals in a 103 appearances in four MLS seasons. not exactly the stuff that of legend, but then again, much better than i would have faired in the league during my teenage years.
regardless of whether he impressed me during his stateside spell or not, freddy’s displays somehow earned him a “big money” move to europe at the super mature age of 18. benfica signed up the boy that would be their in to the cash-lined pockets of the american sports market. they had the first true american prodigy (ESPN told us he was next!).
flash forward to 2011… adu who? at this point freddy can, at the very best, be called a flop.
benfica, on the hook for a retardedly-long 5 year contract, saw a return of just 2 goals in 11 games in the 2007-2008 season. since, they’ve loaned him out for four successive seasons. unfortunately for adu, each loan move was to a lower and lower league. even worse for the starlet, each loan proved less and less fruitful. aside from a loan to monaco (ligue 1: 9 games, 0 goals), the rest of his moves were to sides such as belenenses (portuguese second division: 3 games, 0 goals), aris (greek first division: 9 games, 1 goal), and çaykur rizespor (turkish second divisoin: 8 games, 2 goals).
for those of you keeping track at home, that’s a grand total of 5 goals in 40 european matches. with an attacker that lethal, i’ve already put $10,000 down on the USMNT winning the 2014 world cup (odds as of writing… 81-1).
if you’re like me, you probably thought, “maybe a move back home owuld rejuvinate his flagging career.” you have to think that an MLS side would have jumped at the chance to bring him home on loan. but with no moves ever materializing, perhaps the domestic interest in adu hovers somewhere around zero too.
the youngsters fall from grace, quick and steep, begs to question: how this could happen? perhaps he’s not ever been correctly focused (at least he’s not on twitter constantly anymore). maybe he’s being held out in the cold by coaches who are biased against americans (they do exist). or perhaps it’s that he’s just not that good (probable).
then again, he does occasionally remind us why we were all hyped about him in the first place. adu starred at the u-20 world cup in 2007, as well as at the 2008 olympic tournament in beijing. you would have to think that a player that was named to both tournaments’ best XI’s would be able to make an impact in one of europe’s first divisions.
sadly, he hasn’t been able to.
so a poor immigrant boy wins a nike contract, makes a dream move to europe and is called up to the USMNT. it should be a feel good story that even disney would murder to get the rights to. it should make you feel warm and fuzzy, want to eat an apple pie and scream from the rooftops about the american dream. but the grandiose sense of entitlement that young mr. adu has acquired during the process is enough is enough to make make most anyone feel disdain for the little bastard.
at this point though, i feel bad for him. as annoying as a bratty little kid is with a huge ego, deep down i always hoped he would prove me wrong in europe. after all, how awful would it really be if he had developed into the player we all thought he was capable of becoming? a superstar in bob’s camp wouldn’t be a bad problem to have.
unfortunately though, all we can really hope for anymore is that freddy adu will some day find his feet again.