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The Ballad of Freddy Adu

On Saturday in Monaco, A.S. Monaco beat Stade Rennes, 3 to 1, giving Monaco 40 points on the season thus far and securing a spot in the middle of the French Ligue 1 table. Sitting on Monaco’s bench, was one Freddy Adu, watching his team take on a Rennes’ squad that included the captain of the US National Team, Carlos Bocanegra. Despite suiting up on Saturday, Adu did not see any playing time.

The apparently star-crossed story of Freddy Adu is familiar to most American soccer fans. Born in Ghana, Adu moved to the United States as a young boy, when his mom won the Immigration and Naturalization Act’s “Green Card Lottery.” Adu’s raw soccer talent was so recognizable that he was the first pick in the MLS’s 2004 SuperDraft, going to D.C. United. On April 3, 2004, Adu was a second half substitute in a match against the San Jose Earthquakes. While there is some dispute concerning Adu’s actual age, Adu was reportedly 14 years old when he made his first MLS appearance, making him the youngest player to ever appear in a professional team sport in the United States since at least 1887.

Despite the high expectations and promising skills, Adu’s MLS career can best be characterized as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While American culture tends to give lip service to the concept of individualism, American team sports have a tendency of being suspicious of any player, especially a young player, who, like Adu, shows too much personal flair on the playing field. During his first couple seasons at United, Adu was a yo-yo, bouncing from the bench to a starting position and back to the bench so often that he was fined for complaining to the press about his playing time. By the 2006 MLS season, Adu secured himself a starting position in United’s midfield, and it appeared that he was on the verge of a breakout season in 2007. But in December of 2006, United traded Adu to Real Salt Lake where he would once again have to start from scratch to prove his worth on the pitch.

When the 2007 MLS season started, Adu was a starter for Real Salt Lake, but he only managed to score 1 goal in eleven MLS matches. That the cause of Adu’s woes at Real Salt Lake may not have been solely on his shoulders was evidenced by his performance in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he scored 3 goals and served as captain of a team that beat Brazil and made it to the quarterfinals.

Adu’s performance for the USMNT U-20 team caught the attention of Portugal’s S.L. Benfica, which paid a $2 million transfer fee to obtain Adu from the MLS. While American soccer fans hoped that Adu’s natural talent would be nurtured and enhanced at Benfica, fate stepped in and Fernando Santos, the club’s coach who had championed the Adu transfer, was sacked and replaced by Jose Antonio Camacho. Reports indicate that, on the whole, the coaching staff was pleased with Adu’s skills and training ethic, but during the 2008 summer transfer window Adu was loaned to A.S. Monaco for the 2008/09 season, with an option to make the transfer permanent.

American soccer fans who were disappointed with Adu’s minimal playing time at Benfica hoped that Adu would finally see more serious playing time in Europe since Monaco’s managing owner, Jerome de Bontin, studied in the United States and has strong business ties with the country. In his time since his move from Portugal to France, the young American midfielder/striker has yet to start a match and has only seen action in nine matches. Adu has not scored any goals, but he has two shots and managed to get one yellow card. With only 6 more matches left in the 2008/09 season, it is unlikely that Adu will see a significant increase in his playing time at Monaco.

Whether Adu ends up making a permanent move to Monaco or returns to Benfica, unless he has a breakout summer with the U.S. National Team during the Confederation Cup and its World Cup Qualifiers this summer, history indicates that it is unlikely that Adu will see increased playing time in the 2009/10 season in Portugal or France. As it is, despite scoring against Guatemala last November in a World Cup Qualifier, Adu has not dressed for the National side’s most recent World Cup Qualifiers, with Adu’s lack of playing time at Monaco the seeming excuse for his diminished role with the USMNT.

The time has come, especially after the recent squabble with A.C. Milan over David Beckham, for U.S. Soccer to man up and assert itself on the international club scene. If American talent, like Freddy Adu, is wasting away as a seldom used sub or reserve on a club in Europe, U.S. Soccer needs to voice its concern and take the necessary steps to get that player moved, on loan or permanent transfer, to a club where he will get plenty of playing time.

When Europe’s transfer window opens this summer, U.S. Soccer should champion a deal that will net Adu playing time, even if that means pressuring the MLS or USL into bringing him back to the States for a short summer loan. If MLS or USL balk at any proposed transfer/loan fees, U.S. Soccer should step in and help fund said fees. Since the MLS has shown a willingness to bend its complicated transfer and acquisition rules in the past, it should do so again to ensure that Adu would end up with a coach who won’t be afraid to rely on and nurture Adu’s talent, and guarantee him significant playing time. Ideal locations for Adu in the MLS would be with Sigi Schmid and Seattle Sounders FC, Frank Yallop and San Jose Earthquakes, Curt Onalfo and Kansas City Wizards, Preki and Chivas USA, or Dominic Kinnear and Houston Dynamo, just to name a few.

I know it will be hard for MLS to put marketing and publicity on the backburner and instead focus on a placement that will enable the best development of Adu’s talent, but for the love of the future of the beautiful game in the United States, it is time to bring Freddy home where he can play and develop, even if it is just for a couple months.

— Brian Zygo is the Bureau Chief of the World Soccer Wrap Houston Bureau, the host of World Soccer Wrap: Serie A, and a co-host of The Soccer Show on 1560 The Game in Houston, Texas. He is also the kind of guy who will go out of his way to use the term soccer because he knows it will annoy some people to no end.

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  1. Errol D. Small, Esq.

    May 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm


  2. Football Souvenirs

    June 20, 2010 at 2:24 am

    He also had a trial at Manchester United, pity he didn’t quite make the grade.

  3. junior breeze

    August 23, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I want to tell u guys thanks for writing all of your thoughts, but most of your don’t know nothing about football. Adu is a good player. He was consider one of the top young player in the world and its not by type of mistake, the kid can flate out play. If you watch him play in the youth world cup and the olympia games the kid took over games. Its not just doing moves, its being able to make things happen. He made some bad move benfica, and Monaco. Those are not clubs that will develop young players from oversea, and other point is they dont respect USA as a Football nation. Adu have more talent Gio De Santo that took USA apart in mexico. But De Santo Dad is a ex. Brazilian Star who control his kids career. De Santo was at Barcelona and got all the chances in the world and did not make went to Tottenham hotspur and people thought he would light it on fire, but he didn’t see the field. Freddy was never gaven a chance in both clubs. Think about it for a minute why freddy could play good against team like Holland and control the game from the middle. Half of those player are of the senior team that is already in the World Cup. If you know football and watch european Football You will know that at Benfica when he first got there he played and score goals. When he was on the field he took the freekicks. But when you play for a team that change coachs 3 time a year and you are young its hard. One thing you guys should know, any coach that comes in a club will bring in his owe players. The new coach at benfica broght in all these Argentaina washout. I have a friend that played with Geoge Weah back in the days with AS Monaco a coach told to leave club because unless Weah is hurt he will never get first team action. He said the money was good but he wasn’t playing so he had to take a pay cut to leave, but he got his name out there. Adu need to play for a small club like Micheal Bardly and make his name in europe, and also needs to be injury unlike when first got with benfica.

  4. Saf

    August 20, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I agree with Barry

    If Freddy Adu was good then he would be playing. The fact that he was sold for $2mill indicates that teams do not rate him that highly. There are world class scouts and coaches in Europe and if Freddy did have the talent to become a star then he would have been spotted by a club, considering his future at his current club is not secure. I agree that he needs to go a lower level in order to play more, but i disagree that he should go back to the states. I think he has the talent to be a decent player, but i don’t think he will ever be a great player!

  5. Jacques Strappe

    April 24, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Saying that Adu isn’t a good player isn’t writing about the facts, it’s stating an opinion. So when you preach that he should only write about the facts, you’re clearly implying that saying anything positive about Freddy’s calibre or potential is unacceptable to you. Or at least it comes off that way. You’re condescending in many other regards as well, but that seems far more by design than by accident.

    dude’s paragraph about Freddy’s attitude was also clearly a response to and not Barry Soetoro.

  6. WJ Marx

    April 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    A summer loan for Adu in 2009 is totally unrealistic. No MLS team will benefit by such a deal with the very crowded USMNT schedule which will see Adu gone from any MLS side for extended periods of time. If Adu is not called-in for Qualifying and Confederations Cup he will be called-in for Gold Cup, in either case, he misses most MLS matches during his likely availablility. Ligue 1 matches begin on or about August 8, 2009 + Monaco Pre-season. Benfica schedule is similar!

    June 3 USMNT vs CR
    June 6 USMNT vs Honduras
    June 15 USMNT vs Italy
    June 18 USMNT vs Brasil
    June 21 USMNT vs Egypt
    ? Other Confederations Cup Matches?
    July 3 – 26 Gold Cup + Pre-tournament Call-up
    August 12 USMNT vs Mexico

    Your suggestion may seem attractive to some but logistically it is a

  7. SDM

    April 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    You didn’t even give the possibility of Adu playing in the Gold Cup this summer, which is what I suspect will happen. It will give him the playing time he needs, playing time he probably wouldn’t get if he was on the Confed roster.

  8. Barry Soetoro

    April 23, 2009 at 1:10 am

    It’s not McCarthyism you dumb ass, I’m not accusing of anyone being a commie. I’m just a poor socialist, parading around as a Democrat, using my free speech to to point out Adu just isn’t that good while taking a pot shot at Zygote for being the soft tissue of a woman’s boob.

    I never said anything about Adu’s attitude ma’am.

  9. dude

    April 22, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    And you are an indescribable dolt. Take your umbrage somewhere else; this is a soccer forum, there’s no need to go Mccarthy on anyones ass.

    Where/when has Adu bad mouthed his current club? That was Once in the press with DC; Nowak was a hard ass. I really think people need to update their opinions on Adu, stop holding a grudge, and take a fresh look. Lots of people aren’t playing when they are 19. It should also be pointed out that twice, the reason he came to his European clubs departed before implementing him; first a coach for Benfica, then the owner of Monaco.

  10. Barry Soetoro

    April 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    You’re bonehead Zygote. Find where I told you not to write your stupid comments or your opinions. That’s right, you can’t.

    I told you to write the facts and then called you a knob, which you proved true with with your reply about free speech over the interweb. Besides, if we’re all free here to write what we ant, then I indeed have the right to tell you what you can or can’t comment on (which I clearly didn’t). You then have the right to ignore it you fool.

    Besides my point wasn’t only political, I also pointed out that Freddy Adu is just not that good, that was “the” point. Next time read the entire post before putting your panties on and thumping your chest about free, subjective posts – like mine.

    I thought Texans had thicker skin, but you’ve proven otherwise you soft boob.

    Besides that, I like the article. 😀



    April 22, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Adu’s problem is that he is a cocky little kid. Always bad mouthing his current club, and blaming everyone else for his lack of play time, lack of shots, lack of goals…

    He needs to grow up.

  12. Brian Zygo

    April 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Political slant? Surely you can’t be serious.

    My comments on the whole individualism issue were a reflection of my experience with the mindset of many a coach of many a sport in this country, there was nothing political about my comment.

    Not everything is political. But, since you brought up politics and basically told me to shut up – What offends me the most about your comment is not that you made a grasping assumption, but that you think I cannot express on opinion that might offend your “political” sensibilities. The above post is a subjective commentary, so I’m free to spout whatever belief I might have, and you’re free to disagree with me, but you’re not free to tell me what I can and cannot comment on or what personal beliefs I can and cannot express in my forum.

    So, thank you for reading my commentary and thank you for taking the time to make a post and giving me the opportunity to clarify your misunderstanding.

  13. LI Matt

    April 22, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    If MLS and US Soccer need to keep players of his caliber (and I agree with you about that), why aren’t they doing more to keep them? That is, play salaries competitive with Europe?

    The Cosmos did that, and the rest of the league went broke trying to keep up with them.

    MLS was deliberately set up to keep that from happening again. The revenues just aren’t there to support the kind of salaries that clubs in England/Spain/Italy pay.

  14. Barry Soetoro

    April 22, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    American lip service to individualism? You’re an idiot and just don’t get it, even I – the great socialist savior- understands that Freddy just isn’t as good as billed.

    Adu just isn’t a good player, period. Or wait, is it something bigger like a conspiracy?! That’s it, French socialism and equally poor results for all is also lip service; otherwise, Freddy would be playing and bringing the average playing standard down.

    Get off your political slant and write about the facts you knob.

  15. Sam

    April 22, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Freddy Adu is the yardstick to easure the progress of US soccer. Take it or leave it, the guy is talented but it yet to find the right terrain to nurture his amazing talent. American soccer culture, is still evolving and Adu is swaying to its ups and downs. Had Adu’s parents stayed put in Ghana, the story would have been different. He could have been the next Abedi Pele or Micheal Essien. Or if his parents had relocated to UK, Germany, Spain or Italy hee could have been another Zidane Weah.
    The problem is US soccer must pull out the stops and follow world trends.Right now it is like the cat that wants the fish but unwiling to wet its paw.

  16. dude

    April 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Not a bad idea. I still think it is just a matter of getting Freddy into a starting line up for an extended period of time. I really don’t think his Ego is a liability anymore. Recent questioning has shown that he is humbled, tightly wound, and ready to get back out there; he’s doing the work off the pitch.

    I still know he has plenty of talent. My fear is that, if he doesn’t play, an inferiority complex will strangle his audacity, which is the best part of his game. Adu haters just like to see celebrities “fall.” He’s just shackled.

  17. Oscar

    April 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

    epinfl – If MLS and US Soccer need to keep players of his caliber (and I agree with you about that), why aren’t they doing more to keep them? That is, play salaries competitive with Europe?

  18. eplnfl

    April 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Attitude or not American stars have to play and need to play here in the US for the ultimate good of the game. Adu, maybe hard to coach a lot of players with great talent are but the issue is bigger. Brian is on point that MLS and US Soccer needs a player of his name and talent on the field for MLS and for the USMNT.

  19. Joey Clams

    April 22, 2009 at 7:59 am


    Spare us the generalities about American culture and individualism.

    I will say it again: the snidness of America’s soccer observers and fans will always hold the sport back. Why? No one wants to hear the crap.

  20. LI Matt

    April 22, 2009 at 5:21 am

    He is also the kind of guy who will go out of his way to use the term soccer because he knows it will annoy some people to no end.


    Anyway … this sounds like Jovan Kirovski all over again. Remember when Kirovski signed with ManU at age 17? How he was going to be our first European superstar? Never quite happened.

  21. Sean

    April 22, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Interesting to relive those years of expectation that we all had for Freddy. I think it was just a case of too much hype at too young of an age. I am sure he will find his own again and I think he should definitely come back to the US where he will fit in better. I think Sounders might be a great place for him. Anyway, good luck to him and may his skills once again shine through! ~~~ Mikothang

  22. J.A.X.

    April 22, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Very interesting idea, Brian. I had never thought of a summer loan move to MLS as an option for Freddy, but I think it just might be a good idea.

    Great response to John H’s comment. There are so many Freddy-haters out there that keep saying comments like that, yet they haven’t even really given a lot of thought about what they’re saying. As much as I’ve seen the passionate Freddy-fans get criticized for “speaking purely based on passion” and “speaking without any rational thought or reasoning”, there are also a lot of passionate Freddy-haters who speak this way.

    I’m a Houston Dynamo fan, but I have to say that I think a loan move to Houston for Freddy would be the most unlikely scenario if he were to come to MLS for the summer. Don’t get me wrong–I actually think that he would be a great fit in Houston’s current scheme (especially since Houston still doesn’t have a central creative player of De Ro’s quality ever since De Ro left). However, I get the feeling that Freddy would actually prefer going to San Jose or Seattle instead of Houston if he were to do a summer loan move in MLS. It just seems to me that he would prefer to live in a place like San Jose or Seattle instead of Houston.

    Great article. And “Go Dynamo”.

  23. Oscar

    April 22, 2009 at 12:47 am

    What role does US Soccer have in telling him where to play? I’d love to see him getting more playing time as well, but its Freddy plus his Agents that got him where he is and it’ll be them that have to get him out.

  24. Brian Zygo

    April 22, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Assuming that Freddy has a large ego John, then your comment is a knock against the skills of the coaches in the MLS or USL. If a coach cannot handle a player’s big ego, then the question is why is said person coaching in the first place? If you’re going to coach in any professional league, be it the NBA, EPL, NFL, or even the MLS, you better be capable of dealing with the athlete ego, or you should find a job selling insurance.

  25. John H

    April 22, 2009 at 12:17 am

    No coach in MLS or USL wants to deal with his attitude.

    Sorry to say but his ego was too large for a youngster the first go round in MLS.

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