Saying Adieu to Freddy Adu
Now if there’s one Major League Soccer player that it is fair to say that a large percentage of even Americans have heard of, aside from Mr. Beckham of course, it’s got to be Freddy Adu. In fact, the impact that Freddy had on the fan turnout at DC United games when he joined the team in 2003 speaks for itself as his presence initially resulted in a 10 percent attendance spike at the team’s home games. What’s interesting, and at the same time quite unfortunate is that his MLS tenure has come to an end as Freddy Adu made his debut for Benfica this week; a team in the Portuguese soccer league: BWINLIGA.
The interesting thing about Adu’s departure is that as a teenager he was supposed to be the player to bring the MLS into the same arena as the “big four” (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) while simultaneously rescuing soccer as a whole in the U.S. Nike signed him to a million dollar deal before he’d played a single game amongst men in the pro ranks and he then inked a six year $3 million deal with DC United (the Portuguese club agreed to pay the $2 million transfer fee for him to be released by the MLS after only 4 years). As we can all tell though, about 4 years after Freddy’s debut in the league, the MLS was still in need of saving this past year; hence David Beckham now being labeled by some as the MLS’ savior. While that aforementioned initial boost in attendance and interest in the league can be accredited to Freddy being in the league, this impact wasn’t the result of his exploits on the field but rather the hype that followed him into the league. That hype, as the majority of people with an opinion on the matter will tell you, was far too much for a teenager to live up to. After all, the lack of concern for Major League Soccer and soccer over all in the U.S. has roots in something deeper and more complex than just who happens to play in the league. So yes, I also believe that not only will David Beckham as the lone mega star player, not be enough to save MLS and increase the popularity of the sport but he’ll also need help from the league, the U.S. Soccer Federation along with a lot of luck with American sports fans. That aside though, it certainly seems as if the hype behind Freddy swallowed him and he was unable to work on just becoming a great soccer player; or an adult for that matter.
What is yet to be seen is whether or not this move to European soccer is an upgrade for Adu since typically, playing soccer overseas is an honor that the majority of MLS players dream of achieving both for the higher salaries and caliber of play. Benfica also does happen to be a pretty solid team in a respected European league; one known for developing young, talented players. One positive is that Nike still has hope in young Freddy who just turned 18 this past summer as his contract with them will continue beyond this year. He definitely seems very different than most other over-hyped young stars in that he is still playing at a pretty high level and if this summer’s U.S. under-20 matches are any indication I’m guessing that we will eventually see a rebirth of Freddy Adu who was once slated to become the next Pelé.