Freddy Adu returned to MLS on Friday, signing a contract with the Philadelphia Union on a free transfer from Portuguese club Benfica.
We all know about Adu’s trials and tribulations since signing a professional contract with MLS when he was 14 years old. He was hyped as the next worldwide soccer sensation, and told to prove it. He was given sponsorship deals and asked to shoot commercials when he should have been nurtured as the gift he was. He was given big-time money, but along the way, people forgot he was just a teenage kid, barely in high school.
So, with over-expectation comes under-performance. Every time. In 2007, after four years in MLS, where Adu scored only 11 times for DC United over a three-year span from 2004-2006, only sometimes flashing signs of his brilliance, Adu left for Europe and Benfica. Finally, with the spotlight thousands of miles away, Adu was free to simply play and develop as any teenager, hoping to mold into the player everyone expected him to be.
That was the thing — people expected Adu to do this, or to do that. They didn’t just hope that this kid could navigate the treacherous waters of European pro soccer and find himself in a respectable starting XI. If he didn’t succeed, he was a bust, he was letting an entire nation down.
Those types of expectations can kill a man, let alone a boy. So Adu bounced around Europe for the next four seasons, each year trying to break into different club on loan because Benfica apparently didn’t want him — but were unwilling to give him up for less than they paid for him. And Adu logged some serious hours on planes, trains, and automobiles. He played in France, Greece, and most recently, Turkey, in an attempt to get regular playing time. Finally, in the Turkish 2nd division, he made a splash. So much so, that he was called into the US National team camp for this summer’s Gold Cup.
And finally, after all he’s been through, Adu played well in front of his country. We all saw his talent and technical ability. Against Panama and Mexico in the Gold Cup, we all got to witness his gifts, many of us for the first time. He was the single-best American in the tournament, and he only played in two games. His flair and creativity are attributes possesed by no other American player. Perhaps, ever.
So, after looking for a new club this summer, Adu finally chose to come home from the soccer wilderness that has been his life for the past four years. On Friday, he signed with the Union of MLS, a team coached by his first pro coach, Peter Nowak. The Union, currently in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, play one of the most exciting brands in the league, have a host of young talent, and the addition of Adu as an attacking center midfielder adds an extra spark, making them immediate title contenders.
Beyond his contribution on the pitch, Adu will be good for MLS because of his star power and personality. Just check out the challenge he issued to Kobe Bryant to see what I mean.
So, don’t miss the Union and Freddy Adu, they won’t disappoint, I guarantee it. Afterall, if all goes according to plan, he probably won’t be here for long.
But we’ve all heard that story before…
For those that haven’t seen him play, and even those that have, here is a little clip package of Adu…