The Adu Amnesia EffectBy: Ben | February 28th, 2012
I want to run a bit of a thought experiment. Close your eyes. Okay, don’t close your eyes. Now, imagine Freddy Adu, but only consider the past year of his career. Forget his being drafted while still only halfway through puberty, the magazine covers, and the pictures with Pelé. Wipe away the memory of the buzz that surrounded the US’s wonder kid, and definitely (definitely) make sure to leave behind all thoughts of how very disappointing he turned out to be. No, just think of Adu as he’s existed in the past year, since his MLS return with the Union. In fact, let’s pretend that he’d never gone on his famously failed walkabout in Europe, where playing for four clubs between 2008 and 2010 didn’t help him find any success. Let’s imagine that Adu is a young breakout, whose potential is only just being discovered. At 22, he’s still a young’n, whose talent is being showcased alongside Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo with the US U-23’s. He isn’t doing too bad, either: he’s held his ground with the youth squad, and preformed surprisingly well when called up to the national First Team in the 2011 Gold Cup, assisting both goals of the 4-2 Championship loss to Mexico. He’s got skill, and time to develop. Heck, if he keeps building on his strong debut last year, he could be the marquee player on the Union in the blink of an eye!
Now open your eyes. No, Freddy Adu is not a 22 year old breakout, whose skill is just coming to fruition. Indeed, there is no looking past his history. The hype surrounding America’s “soccer savior”, a beacon of light to the huddle mass of fans across the nation still fighting for respect and desperately awaiting a taste of glory, left the young Ghanaian-American in way over his head. He was playing professionally at only fourteen years old, becoming the youngest person in a century to sign any professional athletic contract in the US, something no young player should be burdened with. We must remember to take the boy with a grain of salt: short of scoring a hat trick in the MLS Cup final, there was no way Adu could have possibly lived up to the expectations the world soccer media placed on his shoulders. His venture into Europe was unfortunate, but can only be expected to have been so, given now hastily it was initiated.
But I’m not here to try to defend Adu’s past. As we enter the 2012 season, we have to consider who could “break out” over the next year, and Adu is a clear contender. Despite obscurity since 2007, his play for the US in the summer of 2011, considered a happy if surprising success by most, was marked by a character we hadn’t seen before: one of an Adu ready to move on from the past, and take a big bite out of the future. That’s why I asked you to imagine Adu from only the past year on- the past few years can justifiably be considered a development phase, with current time being the result. 2012 may well be the year of Freddy’s long-anticipated glory, with his teenage years only a precursor. Adu is still young, only 22, not even nearly at his prime, and still definitely has the potential to become the mainstay of the USMNT that we all hoped he’d become.
Or maybe he’ll just burn out again. Only time will tell. Ill keep my fingers crossed that the US still has a chance to produce its wonder kid.
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