I won’t forget the day I saw Freddy Adu play the one of the greatest games anyone has ever played in a United States jersey.
I was finishing up college at Long Beach State and needed one more class over the summer to get the required credits for my degree. Unfortunately, on this particular day, my class (Media Law) was at the same time as the United States’ second game of the 2007 Under-20 World Cup against Poland. Obviously, the smart move would be go to class, but I have a lifetime track record of not doing the smart move.
Instead of discussing the legal consequences of the Pentagon Papers, I went to the computer lab to watch Polish and American teenagers play soccer against each other. I couldn’t find an English speaking stream for the game, but I found the Polish broadcast on the Internet. I’m happy I did.
Poland jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes, but the U.S. responded with six straight goals. Adu had a hat-trick, but it was how he scored that made it so memorable.
His first goal was an incredible strike from a tight angle, bending the ball around the goalie and off the far post before going in the net. His second was right before halftime, receiving the ball at the top of penalty box and perfectly placing it in the top corner of the goal. The third was late in the blowout, with Adu speeding by the defense and goalie before placing the ball in the open net.
Those were just the goals. He also sliced and diced the defense all game, creating scoring chance after scoring chance against a Poland team that beat Brazil 1-0 in the first match of the tournament. I’m not exaggerating when I call it a Lionel Messi-esque performance.
Adu continued his good play in the tournament, helping the U.S. beat Brazil and Uruguay 2-1 before Austria ousted the U.S. in the quarters. It looked like all the hype was warranted; Adu was going to be a superstar. The idea he wouldn’t be on the 2010 World Cup team seemed like an impossibility.
Less than a month after the tournament, Adu signed with Portuguese power Benfica. Since, Adu’s career has been stuck in neutral. It’s not Adu has played badly, it’s that he hasn’t played. Since going to Benfica, Adu has been loaned out three times (Monaco, Belenenses, Aris) and has played 32 matches in three years.
Adu’s problem is he’s best in a central attacking role (like in the Poland match). Most teams don’t play with a midfield player right behind a forward (especially bad teams), so teams stick him out on the wing. I hope Adu overcomes this paradox, but he has to find the right situation, which has proved difficult.
He’s 21 now, seven years removed from being crowned the future of American soccer and doing Sierra Mist commercials with Pele. But I don’t think I’ve heard his name muttered once during ESPN’s wall-to-wall World Cup coverage. It’s tragic. Looking back, so much has rarely been asked of someone so young. In a column, the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon quoted MLS Commissioner Don Garber saying, when Adu was signed, “Not one person in the world soccer industry, from all the naysayers in this country to every major soccer team in Europe, thought that we would sign Freddy…This says strongly that we are serious about the business of growing the sport of soccer in this country.”
Everyone, from Garber to Nike, were interested in using Adu to promote their own product. What was in the best interest of Adu, the person and soccer player, came second.
In 2005, I was walking into a Quizno’s in Torrance, Calif. when a recognizable face walked by me.
“Freddy Adu?” I wondered out loud. Adu turned, smiled and gave me a quick nod before walking out the door. Thinking I had to share this sighting with someone, I told the sandwich-maker behind the counter.
“You know, that guy you just served is one of the most famous soccer players in the United States.” She gave me a quizzical look before saying, “Really, he looks like a kid.” I paused for a second and snickered, “He is.”
Adu isn’t a kid anymore, but it probably would’ve been a good idea to treat him like one when he was.
Chile 2, Honduras 1
Spain 4, Switzerland 0
South Africa 1, Uruguay 0
The over in the Chile/Honduras match (2.5) — +120 — bet $10 to win $12
South Africa to beat Uruguay — +210 — bet $10 to win $21
Tuesday was a crazy day, check the Day 5 blog if you want the details. But, I was 20 minutes away from losing $70, instead I won about $2.
Individual matches: 0-6 (lost $25)
Prop bets: 0-1 (lost $5)
Parlays: 1-1 (lost $.68).
Over\Under: 2-1 (made $27.50).
Future: 9 pending, 0 wins, 1 losses — lost $10 — $128 invested
Total: Lost $13.18.
You can get my most up-to-date bets on Twitter at IntelSoccer.