Ten years on, Adu still keeps the faith

[THE FREDDY ADU INTERVIEW] On April 3, it will be 10 years since Freddy Adu made his MLS debut for D.C. United.

Still only 24, he's already played for nine clubs and seeking to find a home with a 10th team. Adu, who has been training at English club Blackpool, hasn't played for the USA since starting in the 2011 Gold Cup final against Mexico, but in an interview with Blackpool's Tangerine TV, he holds out hope of playing for the USA again. At the 2014 World Cup?

"You play well for the next couple of months," he says, "and you're in camp for the World Cup. You just never know."

Is Adu dreaming? Of course. But in a career that has seen him gone from the highest-paid in MLS at D.C. United to unwanted at his last MLS club, the Philadelphia Union, he admits he hasn't always made the right decisions about his choices of teams, but he doesn't sound like he'd change a thing.

"What most people don't know is that I decided to go pro because my family was real poor," Adu says. "At that point, my mom was a single mother working two jobs, three jobs, and what am I going to do? Say 'No' to millions of dollars at that age while my family is struggling? No."

Adu is thankful for those who have stuck with him -- notably, Nike, which signed him at age 13.

"When Nike came in and gives you a multimillion-dollar contract," he says. "Yeah, what are you going to say? I was like, 'Yeah, I'm in.' That was very nice."

Adu is not for the first time at the crossroads for his career. Blackpool on the northwest coast of England would be an unlikely home. England would be the seventh country in which he has played and not for the first time he would be playing in the second level. But for the time being, he is noncommittal about playing for the Tangerines except to say he absolutely loves training for them.

"You have to make the right decision," he says, "and you have to do what you have to do to get on the field and play and when you get on the field, you have to make a difference on the field and stay there."
12 comments about "Ten years on, Adu still keeps the faith".
  1. Rene Guerra, February 16, 2014 at 9:18 p.m.

    No one can can persuade me that it wasn't Peter Nowak, then DC United head coach, who killed Freddy's career in the budding. Several friends and I share the firm belief that Nowak disliked all the hype in the media about Freddy, and, out of petty jealousy, decided to put Freddy "in his place"...on the bench, that is. Freddy never blossomed; Nowak clipped his wings.

  2. Thomas Denigris, February 17, 2014 at 8:35 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more with Rene's comments. Absolutely no doubt that Nowak ruined Freddy's career. You cannot tell me he cannot play in the MLS. The MLS -- home of players with the first touch of a sledgehammer. The MLS -- home of players who have the creativity and agility of a tank. Shame on the MLS. Shame on US Soccer. Freddy is a good kid and from this interview, you can see his mom did a great job raising a classy young man. I'm hoping he catches on somewhere.

  3. Gus Keri, February 17, 2014 at 9:20 a.m.

    I disagree with blaming Nowak for all his trouble. He worked with many other coaches and still could not deliver. Maybe the problem is with the same people he said helped "guide him on the right track". What right track? he is going downhill. He need to get rid of all the people who helped him so far and find a better help. Psychology help will not hurt. he seems to be suffering from "denial."

  4. Andrew & russell Cook, February 17, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.

    Is the MLS the place you go to nurture young talent and bring it along? If Messi had signed with DC United, instead of Barca, as a youth, would his career have had the same trajectory? I doubt it. The MLS was a compromise. It made the Adu family a lot of money and made it possible for Freddy to stay near home. Inter expressed interest in Freddy before the MLS did, but the Adu's did not want to move to Italy. That probably would have been a better career move, but it would have been a huge disruption to his personal life. I like Adu's attitude--he recognizes that he and his family made a choice, and why they made that choice. His story is a good one to reflect on for "the next Pele", as Freddy was sometimes billed, when he comes along.

  5. J david Cepicka, February 17, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

    It is crazy to blame Nowak for Freddy's crappy career. He just did not develop physically and athletically enough to be a competent pro. I watched many MLS games he played in. He is slow and weak. It doesn't really matter how technically proficient you are, if you can't run and are easily knocked off a ball you will have no success regardless of which league you are playing in....

  6. beautiful game, February 17, 2014 at 11:59 a.m.

    Sounds like a few of u guys never developed a minute speck of apathy. Young athletes need proper guidance to develop a fundamental mindset for any sport. Once that support system fails, it becomes a high risk question if the player can succeed. Think about it, he was 14 years of age; and the MLS got carried away when no other league would have fielded him at such a tender age. IMHO, Freddy never had the proper guidance; he should have went to a European academy like Giuseppe Rossi did. The latter had a huge talent and a proper environment to develop. Lucky for Rossi that he didn't choose the MLS.

  7. Kent James, February 17, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.

    Adu's career just demonstrates how fickle talent can be at a young age. Too much exposure too early and a player may believe the hype and fail to put in the effort; too little, he may lose confidence. I've always liked Adu's creativity, but haven't seen him enough to know if he's actually gotten worse as a player (which would indicate a pretty poor development path) or if he just didn't blossom like people thought he would. The few times I've seen him, he's been entertaining. Whatever his soccer career holds (and he is still young), I think he has a healthy attitude and I certainly understand why he chose the path he did.

  8. Allan Lindh, February 17, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

    He's still better on the ball than most MLS mids, surely there is someone who would give the kid a shot. After all if you get rid of the ball before they crunch you it doesn't matter how strong or fast you are. IF he will take a modest contract, in exchange for a chance to train, and maybe play some. If he still has his touch, vision, sense of the game. Too bad really, he was fun to watch, especially in the U20s.

  9. beautiful game, February 17, 2014 at 5:20 p.m.

    Allan L, I agree with u 100%. There are too few MLS players that have a tuned IQ for soccer. Freddy can replace a bunch of them.

  10. Bruce Gowan, February 17, 2014 at 7:31 p.m.

    Hey guys, a couple of you had it right. Adu is weak and slow physically. All of the ball handling in the world is no good if you can not play the game physically. I know players who played against him and said it when he was 14. I saw him try to play in the MLS and later on the youth National team. Weak and slow early and late. All show and no go.

  11. beautiful game, February 18, 2014 at 11:28 a.m.

    Bruce, spoken like a true footballer; yet, it's not the physical part, it's the smart part. The successful players are skillful and make things happen, all a product of a proper youth training program. How anyone can put the onus on Freddy's 'lack of success' is typical those that talk the game, but never walked it.

  12. Ginger Peeler, February 19, 2014 at 4:16 p.m.

    Freddy was a 14 year old boy playing against mature men. Nowak didn't do him any favors, but he didn't have all that much experience as a coach, himself, back then. The league should have gone out of their way to place him with a proven coach experienced with kids and teenagers. Easy to say now with hindsight. I've always enjoyed watching Freddy play...he's one of the players who reads the field well. Back when Bob Bradley was still coaching, Altidore was hurt and Bradley (finally) put Adu in. He picked up the slack and made a positive difference in the game. It was so long ago, but I believe Bradley started him in the next game, too and he continued to play very well. I was so pleased that he'd finally shown the coach and all of us watching what he was capable of. And then they replaced Bradley with Klinsman. I don't think Klinsman has ever called him in. Our loss.

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