Freddy Adu’s Failure Illustrates USA’s Inability to Understand Soccer Development

In the summer of 2011, numerous US soccer pundits lauded the return of Freddy Adu after a two-year absence from the men’s national team.

The spark that ignited the fire was Adu’s midfield pass that began a counterattack. Though the counterattack did lead to a goal, it seemed the pundits who praised the American only saw what they wanted to see: A player once coveted, returning to prominence.

The adoration for Adu went on for quite some time following his, average at best, performances at the 2011 Gold Cup. Now after 14-months as a member of the Philadelphia Union, it looks like Adu has exhausted all the brotherly love he acquired.

As the sole designated player for the Philadelphia Union, earning nearly $600,000 a year, according to sources, Adu was the player the club planned to build around. Even Philadelphia fan-favorite Sebastian Le Toux was traded, so the club could accommodate the attacking midfielder. However, Philadelphia didn’t stop there as it continued to blow up the squad over the course of the summer in hopes of turning around what became a Toronto FC-esque season.

Amazingly, Adu is still only 23-years old. More amazingly, Adu has been a professional since 2004, when he became one of the youngest professional athletes in American history at the age of 14. Obviously, times have change for both Adu and Major League Soccer. When the American was signed by DC United, the league was looking for both credibility and exposure. MLS got the latter as media outlets clamored to interview the player, but the former became even more elusive as many criticized the league for signing a 14-year old to a professional contract.

Since those early days, Adu has done little to reinforce the expectations that were placed upon him. However, just as Adu hasn’t lived up to expectations as the “second coming” of US soccer, MLS must be held accountable for allowing a boy to play in the country’s premier soccer league against men five, 10 and 15 years older. Consider Adu was playing professionally at the age of 14, which is the age countries such as Spain, France and Italy allow youth teams to begin playing 11 versus 11.

Just as Adu’s meteoric rise in DC had begun, it ended abruptly. After three seasons in the nation’s capital, Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake – at the time one of the worst teams in MLS and nothing like the club of today. Eleven matches and one goal – from a penalty – later and Adu was off on a European adventure that lasted four and half years, spanned four countries and five clubs.

Some decent play during that time encouraged fans of the men’s national team that Adu could finally join Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as the fulcrum of the squad. However, with Adu’s now failed return to MLS, the biggest concern should be whether he still has a career left to salvage.

Perhaps, it’s the American soccer fans that do not want to give up on someone that held so much promise. But with a big salary comes big expectations, and with seven goals and two assists in 35 games, those expectations are not being met. It looks especially bad when the team finishes outside the playoffs in a league where over half the clubs qualify. It also looks bad when Philadelphia moved Le Toux, Danny Mwanga and Danny Califf for allocation money, Jorge Perlaza and Michael Lahoud. Perlaza only played twice before the club terminated his contract and increasing look like the laughingstock of the league. Luckily, Toronto, Portland and Chivas have all garnered ridicule in 2012.

Many pundits continue to write: Adu’s Time is Running Out or Adu is Running Out of Options. Simply put, Freddy Adu IS out of options. It’s time the Union and all of MLS put their checkbooks away and let Adu fade out. Mentally and physically Adu has been surpassed by a new generation of soccer players and like Danny Szetela and Santino Quaranta, looks like another lost cause in American soccer.

25 thoughts on “Freddy Adu’s Failure Illustrates USA’s Inability to Understand Soccer Development”

  1. I am not going to read this article now.

    The failure to understand it is the playoffs and there are very important games going on tells you all you need to know about soccer development by fans in this nation.

    For many it is arrested. Dead in the water. It stopped 10-20 years ago.

    Maybe I will change my mind when I read it after Dec 1, but soccer bloggers that think they have all the answers better than the whole rest of a massive soccer nation are secondary to great games for me.

  2. Average at best? Tell the sky sports (hint, not the American fans you want to denigrate) commentator’s who were gushing at Adu’s feet over his performances in the Gold Cup.

  3. This is an absolute GARBAGE of an article…. COMPLETE joke! When Adu plays for Philly, they actually have a chance to score. When he doesn’t, their goals are either deflection goals or trash goals. You say, “average at best” in his performance in the Gold Cup. Did you even watch the game vs Panama? The reason we beat them and got to the finals was because he made an insane pass to Donovan, and Donovan passed it to Demspey who scored. In the Finals vs Mexico, Adu started and he assisted Michael Bradley’s goal. Freddy Adu is no doubt one of the most creative players the US has, and it is a complete shock tome that he hasn’t been called up. When he steps on the field, he makes things happen. Half of the things he does for Philly is that the other players don’t see it OR they can’t finish. Freddy has changed over the years. He is not the player who scores a ton of goals. He is the player who makes great passes, finishes when needed, and moves off-the-ball to get players open.

  4. Freddy Adu is not a failure. Soccer is primarily a team sport, and as Freddy Adu is a part of the Philadelphia Union Team.

    The expectation of him being a ‘soccer messiah’ is too much for anyone. Even the great David Beckham was not a ‘soccer messiah’ for England.

    Players develop a different rates. At some point the coaches must be satisfied that a player has developed to a respectable player – which Freddy Adu is.

    The other challenge that we must recognize is that many good players are discarded. Two of the best talents from the Los Angeles area, Hercules Gomez and Luis Silva do not play in Los Angeles or in America for that matter.

    Young players must often deal with the discouraging quips that ‘they are not good enough’ or ‘they are not in the coaches plans’. In my opinion, young players throughout America should be encouraged, and leagues like the PDL should be advertised more in the local press. These lower leagues allow young players to develop.

    Freddy Adu is not a failure. He played well in the last US U-23 qualification games and almost orchestrated a comeback … the defense of that team allowed many goals, but the problem was NOT the offense of midfield.


    1. Thank you Concorde Sports Agency.

      Freddy Adu will never be a failure. He was the best player in the 2008 Olympics for us, and he was no doubt the best for the Qualifying this year. He almost made a comeback by himself vs El Salvador but our defense didnt show up.

  5. I encourage everyone to check out the BBC World Service World Football podcast. Coincidentally, Freddy Adu was interviewed this week talking about his struggles in soccer and his desire to return to Europe to seek success.

      1. He played two matches, and other than his one pass, never stood out unless a commentator was “putting him over.” Sure he got an assist in the final from a free-kick, but one moment, one pass does not make it for a player. He isn’t consistent, in that tournament or in his career, like a Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey.

        1. Farmer you are in idiot. I’m pretty sure that Adu came into that Panama game in the 70thmin or later, the score was 0-0 to a average at best Panama. So tell me, how were Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley consistent if they could not even score? This crap is so funny to me about consistency, if that were the case, we’d have 3 WC titles if you want to play perfect ball as your dreamfilled mind says. You should be ashamed for writing this article.

          1. 100% agree. An embarrassing article for this guy. This is soccer. Freddy Adu isnt consistent in the fact that he’s consistently average. He’s consistently pretty good with flashes of brilliance. But stupid people respond ..”why can’t he be brilliant all game, every game?” I dont know. Why doesn’t Kobe score 80 points a game every game? I’ve seen him do it. He must be inconsistent. Soccer is a team sport where you dont get stats or even great looking play unless your teammates are playing well.

          2. Drew Farmer you should just stop replying. You are making a complete fool out of yourself. The amazing things is that Freddy finally came on as a sub and made something happen. A player is not average at best if he contributed to 2 goals in 2 matches…. Wow man, what were you watching?

  6. ugh the article never addresses the issue of soccer development- is the author saying Adu is the typical American player development story? or what the article bags on Adu but doesn’t come close to analyzing US youth development

      1. My son will be 16 soon, and is going to pro trials. Yet everyone near us says we are crazy, that at 16 he is “too young” to consider playing pro. He and his parents can deal easily with him playing with 20-25 year olds, or older, but if he was 13 or 14? No way. It just seems like Freddy was sold into the system far too young, for all the wrong reasons.

        I know U15 BNT players who score a goal for the US, then don’t get picked the next game. Who are treated like GOLD by their clubs. Who are on teams with 7 or 8 players CLEARLY better than them. Something is dreadfully wrong with the youth scouting system in the US, and it won’t be fixed until there is a much more comprehensive assessment and funneling method, that takes advantage of our large population.

  7. This article tries to highlight failings in the development of young players in the mls and the pressure that can be heaped upon them. With this in mind it goes on to question a 23 year olds performances and future in the game?

    As an english football fan I dont have a understanding on the american game I would like but really it shouldn’t be possible for young talent to be on more then established players?

      1. The original poster is one of the morons who booed the McNabb draft pick. Guaranteed. Way too many loud mouthed morons in this town following sports.

  8. Trying to be as nice as possible here. Whoever wrote this article is a moron. Didn’t look at the authors name, not planning to waste my time to even scroll my phone up and check. The author of this article is an idiot and should put his computer away for a while. Adu has been the best attacking player for the Union, along with Marfan. And he was fantastic in his short stint in the Gold Cup.

  9. This isn’t about Americans holding out hope that he’ll be a savior and seeing the sunny side of Adu. Anyone with a brain has long discarded the notion of Adu the Savior and just evaluates Adu the player. Only morons like yourself continue to compare current Adu to an idiotic hyped up 14 year old Adu. Try turning your brain on and shedding the decade old hype and evaluating him against his current peers, and not against Messi and Pele. Jackass. How did you even get an article?

  10. After reading this article (and I should sue you by the way for making waste a good few min of my time) Its obvious that this Drew Farmer has no idea what he is talking about. Mr. farmer is the epitome of what is wrong with US soccer.

    First of reading him say Adu’s Gold Cup of 2011 was average says it all. How about you email the Mexican soccer federation and ask them to explain why they gave Adu so much praise following the 2011 Gold Cup. Why FA, says that its the US fault for not understanding true talent.

    Again we have a moron who believes Soccer is the equivalent of singles tennis. Mr. Farmer believes that only Adu can play a perfect lights out game for 90min. He believes that a bad pass, and attacking the defender and losing the ball is god awful because he is trying to set up and create. He is jealous like the rest of MLS including John Hackworth because he makes 600,000 as if its his fault. Every single post brings up his salary, which tells me there is plenty of jealousy. I read a very excellent response on a friends soccer site. He is from England and started to research Adu while at philly, and brought something to attention. with all the great setups he has created, watch what happened when they actually did score on one of his crosses or passes. They totally avoid Adu. They run in the oppostie direction.

    If this is due to character I could care less, Balotelli is a nightmare, but his coach understands TALENT. He plays, he creates, and he scores. No different then Adu when given the chance. Until JK and the rest of the USSF get their heads out of their asses we will continue to be AVERAGE. I pray their is a manager over seas who understands the true talent of one of our top players in this country. To compare him to Torres, or Beckman, Williams, or even MB in the midfield as an attacker is blasphemy.

    1. Adu isn’t as bad off the field as Balo. And Balo is generally on par with the talent level at city. Adu is better than most of his peers at Phila U

  11. Freddy Adu played well against Panama?! In that case, rescind everything ever said about the man and proclaim him a great player!

    In all seriousness, the first mistake was made when Adu was allowed to turn professional at the age of 14. This is impossible in countries such as England, Germany, Spain etc. If a young kid shows immense talent at that age he is nurtured and well looked after. I’m sure Wayne Rooney could have held his own in the EPL at 14, but Everton correctly held him back.

    Adu was made a star by Nike and DC United, who wanted to cash in on the classic American Dream tale of “poor boy comes good, makes millions”

    I can safely say that Freddy Adu will lever make it big in Europe. He’s a liability, lacks quality and doesn’t have the mentality to make it at a big club.

    1. Jozy Altidore played for RBNY of the MLS while in high school, yet he missed a game due to his HS prom. Adu never had that kind of chance.

      And don’t get me started on when he was really 14 or not, and should have been promoted two grades if he was.

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