The 2010 World Cup is 111 days away and, at the moment, the U.S. national team has its share of questions.
Will Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu and Charlie Davies be healthy enough to contribute? Will there be room on the roster for Brian Ching, Jose Francisco Torres or Edgar Castillo? Will Jermaine Jones get healthy and pull on a U.S. shirt sometime this year?
While all of these questions are important to the red, white and blue’s trip to South Africa, it may be time to ask another one:
Can Freddy Adu win a spot on the plane?
Adu is a polarizing figure in American soccer. A quick scan of a message board or comment list on any story involving him reveals a wide swath of opinions.
Depending on the perspective, he’s over-hyped, under-used, immature, waiting to explode or either the greatest hope or disappointment in the last five years.
He’s bounced around some, to be sure. He’s been on six different clubs since 2004, never scoring more than eight goals in a season – a number that’s a bit light for a player that favors flair over defensive effort.
His national team showings have been hot and cold, including a goal in the opening game of the 2009 Gold Cup, followed by a lifeless effort in the second game.
Considering the glut of options the U.S. has at his position – Landon Donovan, Dempsey, Torres, Benny Feilhaber and so on – it’s easy to overlook Adu.
But there are reasons not to do so.
He’s made four starts for Aris since his loan move from Portugal last month. In those starts – three league matches and one more in the Greek Cup – he’s netted two goals and added two assists, including one to fellow American vagabond Eddie Johnson.
So what, some might say.
It’s a fairly new league, but the Greek Super League ranked 10th in the UEFA coefficient at the end of last season, squarely between Russia and the Czech Republic.
Is it the same as Donovan standing out in the EPL? No.
But his form is better than it has been in a long time.
It’s tough to remember than the guy can’t buy a beer here yet. He’s won’t turn 21 until a few days before the World Cup.
As a guy that’s been under a microscope since he was a teenager, it’s possible that he had some growing up to do. It’s possible that he’s only now discovering the path to success relies less on talent than it does on hard work.
He’s got eight league matches left and Aris is also still alive in the Greek Cup, so there will be another match or two before the season winds up in mid-April.
Is that enough time to turn Bob Bradley’s head?
If he continues to score goals in Greece – a talent that might be in short supply when the U.S. team plane takes off for Africa – can we afford to leave him off?
His Twitter feed, the source of some angst among members of Sam’s Army, had an interesting entry on the day of the World Cup draw:
“Im gonna say something right now. I have never wanted to be a part of something as bad as i wanna be in this world cup. Work and prayer”
Maybe he wasn’t kidding.
Is he deserving?
Time will tell.