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Freddy Adu - From Entitled To Obscure To The Gold Cup 2011 Final

Freddy Adu was the biggest surprise for the U.S. in the 2011 Gold Cup
Freddy Adu was the biggest surprise for the U.S. in the 2011 Gold Cup

Freddy Adu played an important role in the final two matches of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the United States last week, and he got his start right here in D.C. Let's take a look back at the long road that Adu took to get back to the biggest stage of his career.

November 2003, Freddy Adu signs a professional contract at age 14 to play for D.C. United of MLS. The Maryland raised player sighted staying near his family as a main reason of signing with the MLS team as opposed to joining one of the many European clubs that had also hoped to sign the young soccer prodigy born in Ghana. 

Fast forward to April 2004 where Adu scores his first professional goal at age 14, the youngest player to do so in MLS history. At that point in the Freddy Adu timeline, the future looked ripe for the taking. The surefire success however would not play out as anticipated. Many critics and fellow players were quick to point out that Adu was both immature and physically not ready to compete at the professional level of MLS even with his amazing skills and promising future.

At the age of 16 U.S. Men's Head Coach Bruce Arena called Freddy Adu into the national team training camp where Adu would earn his first cap for the U.S. squad in a friendly against Canada. Again it looked as if Adu was on track to becoming the biggest name in American soccer. The appearance of Adu against Canada made him the youngest player to debut for the national team. With all of the quick success for the young soccer prodigy once compared to Pele and even appearing in commercials with the best player to ever play the beautiful game, it is easy to see how a sense of entitlement could have easily fostered within his ego.

After four seasons in MLS, 98 appearances, and 13 goals, Adu was off for his first crack at the European soccer circuit, joining Portugese club Benifica. This is where you might say the story of Freddy Adu became anything but predictable.

After only 11 appearances for Benifica, Adu was loaned to French side AS Monaco. With only nine appearances for the French club, Adu was sent packing to yet another Portugese club, Belenenses. His playing time continued the downward spiral, seeing Adu take to the pitch for a career low three appearances. The pace of his European adventure would pick up as Freddy did not even last the entire season with Belenenses before being sent off to join Aris Thessaloniki in the Super League of Greece. One final move to a Turkish Second Division club, Çaykur Rizespor, and it becomes painfully obvious that the once promising future of the next great American soccer hope had all but faded into oblivion after four seasons with five clubs.

Flash forward one last time to May 2011, nearly eight years after Freddy Adu exploded onto the American sports scene and helped bring attention to a then young professional soccer league . Mentions of Adu had become sparse at best, maybe a side note here or there and a possible mention of players that had never lived up to the "hype". U.S. Men's Head Coach Bob Bradley appears via media press conference call to announce the USMNT roster for the 2011 Gold Cup. The usual suspects make the list, Donovan, Dempsey, Howard, etc., but one name makes a surprise appearance seemingly out of nowhere - Adu, Freddy (M).

Now at age 23, Adu rejoins the U.S. roster for the first time since 2008 where he set many personal career highs with the nation team. For many, the addition of Adu by Bob Bradley was not simply a shock but also provided more fuel to the argument as to whether or not Bradley was the right man to lead the U.S. team success. Many fans, columnist, and "experts" thought for sure the inclusion of Adu was a last chance for the once promising midfielder.
As the 2011 Gold Cup played out and the USMNT attempted to win back the Cup from Mexico, Fredy Adu was simply a fixture in practices and on the bench. But during the fifth game for the U.S., a rematch against a Panama team that had already beaten the USMNT in 2011 Gold Cup play, Adu was brought on as a substitute in the 66th minute for another young U.S. up-and-comer Juan Agudelo. Adu would prove himself worthy of the national team call up by adding much needed spark to the game and within 10 minutes helping set up the eventual winning goal on a pinpoint pass to Landon Donovan that led to a Clint Dempsey goal.
Freddy Adu would go on to start for Bob Bradley in the Gold Cup Final against Mexico, which saw the Americans lose for the second straight time to bitter rivals Mexico. Seen by many as the best U.S. player on the pitch during the match, Adu had essentially come full circle and seemingly returned to the path many had imagined for him from the beginning.
The young Maryland star soccer prodigy with so much potential had to take a different route to international success than most, but his journey has returned a young man who seems more focused than ever, and after showcasing his skills and talent, may now be able to become the star player his fans dreamed of and detractors assured us he would never be.