Freddy Adu’s career trajectory has gone off the rails in the past few years. The one-time American prodigy who was compared to the greats of the game at a young age has cycled through club after club all over the globe during the past eight years. Adu hasn’t been capped for the US Men’s National Team since 2011.
A move to Thomas Rongen’s Tampa Bay Rowdies seems like a last-ditch effort to salvage Adu’s waning career. Playing in the second tier of American soccer, Tampa Bay is an ambitious club whose marketing prowess and spending on players is unrivaled outside Major League Soccer, except by the New York Cosmos.
If any coach can get the best out of Adu, it is likely Rongen who managed the player in two FIFA U-20 World Cups for the United States. In the 2007 tournament, where the US reached the quarterfinals, Adu was brilliant, dominating in the group stage including an immense performance in a 2-1 win over a Brazil.
After that World Cup performance, Adu was signed by Benfica and immediately found a role in the setup for the Portuguese giants. Serving as a super sub who could inject both pace and creativity late on in matches, Adu seemed on his way at just 18 to a stellar European career. At the same time, Adu was brought into the senior US Men’s National Team and became a regular selection.
But the sacking of coach Fernando Santos (who would later manage Greece at the Euros and World Cup) led to Adu rotting in the reserves. Still, in the summer of 2008, in two US friendlies on European soil against England and Spain, Adu was arguably the most impressive US player. The following season he was loaned to AS Monaco but only featured nine times for the club.
Adu’s lack of playing time meant that even though he was selected for the US squad for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup by coach Bob Bradley, he was no longer assured of time on the pitch and in fact did not play a minute in the tournament where the US surprisingly reached the final.
During the following two seasons, Adu was loaned to three different clubs by Benfica, never settling at any of them and seeing his national team career seemingly end. He was omitted from selection for every US National Team squad after the 2009 Gold Cup until 2011. In 2010, he was nowhere near being selected for the World Cup squad in Brazil.