So the only move that could detract from the LA Galaxy annoying Liga MX fans by snaring Giovanni dos Santos came from an NASL club? Yes, it did. An NASL club brought back Freddy Adu to revitalize his lifelong mission on Earth — to become the savior for U.S. soccer that he was desperately forced to be before puberty (or after, for birther conspiracy theorists).
The Tampa Bay Rowdies in the U.S. second division announced this week that it would be the 13th club lucky enough to host the kid that lead Sierra Mist campaigns with Pelé. And if ever there was something even more of a flop than Freddy Adu, it is a Sierra Mist campaign.
TBQF, Adu has been more unlucky than undeserving in his career (in this writer’s minority-held opinion), a prime example of two vital things: How critical it is for a young player to make his first club abroad the right one, and the fact that there still is a stigma with American attacking players at big clubs.
In 2007, fresh off a great Under 20-World Cup in which he (and even Jozy Altidore) out-performed or equaled the likes of Luis Suárez, Arturo Vidal, Juan Mata, Alexander Pato, future club teammate Ángel Di María, and the aforementioned dos Santos, Adu chose to leave Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer. His move to Benfica seemed like it would allow him to become America’s first world-class player. The country was in the midst of being completely down on Landon Donovan for a terrible 2006 World Cup and had already forgotten about Clint Mathis’s wasted talents. Adu was now primed to be U.S.’s first true superstar.
And then he didn’t. Brought in with Di María by then-Benfica manager Fernando Santos, Adu saw Santos replaced by José Camacho three weeks after his arrival. Despite scoring two goals and showing moments of promise, Adu was never put in a position to succeed with the Portuguese giant, playing as a winger instead of centrally. The rest is history.
It’s surprising that Adu hasn’t ended up playing in Antarctica given how bad his career has gone, especially seeing how Di María has become one of the best players in the world (a dreadful last season with Manchester United notwithstanding). Another awkward tenure with resident José Mourinho wannabe Peter Nowak, his first professional coach at D.C. United, in Philadelphia was the highlight of a journey that saw Adu playing in the Finnish third division before coming back stateside. Video images of the supposed American savior playing in the Finland’s lower leagues was about as sad as Lauren Bassett’s own goal in the Women’s World Cup.
That’s why it is only fitting Adu is now back with the man who truly got something of him. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Thomas Rongen, he is one of the few people who is actually successful in America at given promising players a platform to become actual stars. Adu unquestionably produced his peak playmaking wizardry under Rongen, skills that could be providing some life for Jurgen Klinsmann’s lethargic Gold Cup campaign right now instead of being used as one last lifeline for a meaningful career.
“I believe in him,” Rongen said. “He believes in me.” Adu returned the love-fest. “It feels right,” the former wunderkid said. “He has confidence in me. Even some of the other coaches that I’ve played under with my recent struggles would maybe think twice before bringing me on.”
The Freddy Adu odyssey really does need a good ending, or at least one with a respectable close instead of being mired in Finland. While Giovanni dos Santos returns to North American club shores, his fellow much-hyped 26-year-old CONCACAF playmaking ubertalent made an even more vital move for his career.