One of the greatest players in history of soccer. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Most people today have never heard of Freddy Adu. However, in the early 2000s, he was one of the most talked about names in the world of soccer. He was a child prodigy and many thought him the future of American soccer for years to come. People talked about him in such high regard that he was even compared to legends of the game such as Pele. Adu was born and raised in Ghana. In 1997, at the age of eight, his family moved to Rockville, Maryland after his family won the Green Card Lottery. In the coming years, Adu was scouted by professional teams and brought into the US Olympic Development program. He was in the United States youth set up, which brings together the best players from around the country. By being part of the youth set up, he was able to play against other youth national teams. During this time he showcased his skills against the best players from other countries.1

The first team that signed Adu in Europe. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At the age of fourteen, Adu was the first draft pick in the MLS Draft.  The pick originally belonged to Dallas but was given to D.C. United, and this brought Adu closer to home.  Soon after joining, Adu became the youngest player to appear in a MLS game as well as become the youngest player to score. His first goal came in a game against the Metro Stars now known as the New York Red Bulls.2

Adu continued to get minutes and gain experience while playing for D.C. United. In 2006 he was traded to Real Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he made eleven appearances and scored one goal. During this time, he played in the Under Twenty World Cup and was getting more attention from other professional teams. The World Cup is the most important competition in soccer. Because he played so well during this competition, he was bought by Benfica, a Portuguese team in the first division.3

From this point forward Adu’s football rollercoaster began. Adu moved from country to country in search of a team he could build his name at. Adu made eleven appearances and scored one goal that following season with his new club Benfica. The manager was not convinced by his performance, and the following season he was sent on a season loan to AS Monaco in the French first division. Monaco used him sparingly throughout the season and decided not to make his move permanent to the French team. Adu returned to Benfica next season only to be loaned out to Belenenses, another Portuguese first division team. Unfortunately for Adu, he was not playing at the level to compete with first division players. It wasn’t that he was not talented or had the desire to compete. He was just unable to get everything to align for him. During this time Adu was still being picked by the American National team to play friendly and competitive games. However he was not getting regular playing time in Belenenses. Therefore Adu signed for Aris a second division team in Greece and the following year for Turkish team Çaykur Rizespor, both second division teams. Neither of this two teams offered Adu a contract and his contract with Benfica expired. All of these loans were only in a span of four years. After playing for two lower division teams, there was some concern that Adu would not get offered a contract from a first division team again.4

Freddy Adu played for the Philadelphia Union the last top flight team. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Adu was still young, talented, and hungry, and he possessed all the features to be a great player. In August 2011, he was signed by Philadelphia Union and was reunited with his former D.C. United coach Piotr Nowak. Being signed by his former coach gave Adu a lot of confidence, knowing that people still believed in his ability and were willing to give him a chance. However, he had a lot to prove in the coming season with the Philadelphia Union. Having not played in a top division for the last two years, this was his chance to show everyone that he was still capable of reaching the level that was first expected of him. In his first season, Adu played in eleven games, scored two goals and assisted one. Though these stats are not that impressive he did join the team halfway through the season.5

The 2012 season would be his first full season with the Philadelphia Union. He was able to get a lot of playing time during this season. He started twenty games and played in twenty-four. He scored five goals and got one assist. He was even named by the MLS as the 19th player in the MLS under 24 list.6 Being put on the list was a big deal, especially since that he had not been competing against players that were at this level the past seasons. It looked like Adu was on the come up again. Unfortunately, the following season Piotr Nowak was fired and job was given to John Hackworth. Hackworth was not impressed with the Adu’s output the previous seasons. He decided to not put him in the squad the following season. Seeing that he was not going to get any playing time in Philadelphia, Adu wanted out. Soon after, Adu was sent to Brazilian team Bahia. In return the Philadelphia Union got a Brazilian player by the name of José Kléberson. Adu made the move to Brazil on August 5, 2013 and was released on November 7, 2013. This just summarizes how Adu’s career has gone. Nothing seems to be able to line up for him perfectly to become a superstar in the soccer world.7

Freddy now plays for a USL team in Las Vegas | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Adu continued to train with different clubs around the world in search for a professional contract. However he did not receive any contract offers. He signed with some semi-professional teams but nothing that was worth writing about. Adu is currently playing for the Las Vegas Lights in the USL Championship which is in the second division in the United States. His career turned out to be far less glamorous than what people had expected it to be. People expected him to be in the same category as Messi and Ronaldo. However, it seemed like things never aligned for Adu to have a stable career. For everyone looking at him now it will always be the story of what could have been.8

  1. Joe Tansey, “What Happened to America’s Pele? The Rise and Fall of Freddy Adu,” Bleacher Report, October 3, 2017.
  2. “Freddy Adu,” Wikipedia, September 6, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Adu.
  3. “Freddy Adu.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, September 6, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Adu.
  4. “The Nine Stages of Freddy Adu’s Career: From Wonderkid to Wanderer,” Planet Football, January 16, 2019.
  5. “Freddy Adu,” Wikipedia, September 6, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Adu.
  6. “The Nine Stages of Freddy Adu’s Career: From Wonderkid to Wanderer,” Planet Football, January 16, 2019. https://www.planetfootball.com/quick-reads/nine-stages-freddy-adus-career-wonderkid-wanderer/.
  7. “The Nine Stages of Freddy Adu’s Career: From Wonderkid to Wanderer,” Planet Football, January 16, 2019. https://www.planetfootball.com/quick-reads/nine-stages-freddy-adus-career-wonderkid-wanderer/.
  8. “Freddy Adu,” Wikipedia, September 6, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Adu.

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20 Responses

  1. This happens to a lot of players around the world and to be honest it is really sad since there are a lot of talent in soccer around the world. For example, in Honduras where Im from, soccer is the most played sport in the country and talent is undeniable. The only problem is that players around Honduras don’t get their opportunity to show their talent or to leave the country for better opportunities.

  2. It’s heartbreaking that with so much talent he was not helped to keep going and believed in. It’s a reality for a lot of individuals who have the best talent but are not able to show it due to outer forces or circumstances hindering there mindset. In the world of sports, many young talented people are seen to be the next generation of raw talent, but end up fading out due to many reasons, but it leaves one to think what if they had kept going and had the tools to pursue their sport.

  3. I really liked this article. There are millions of talented players that don’t get to boosts their potential because of their surroundings. These players didn’t have the same opportunities as others due to the country they were born or a team that supported them. Things like this don’t just happen in soccer but in other sports like football, rugby, or basketball. It is a world problem because people that have talent can’t push themselves to their limits because of any circumstances.

  4. I’m not a big fan of soccer and I never really knew about Freddy Adu. It sucks how you can have so much talent but it can just go to waste because you get overlooked by teams that don’t really know your true potential. If you want to be a professional athlete you have to be ready to take the criticism from fans, players, and coaches. This was a great article!

  5. This story if Freddy Adu is a sad one. He had the up most potential but that is it. He was unable to achieve his goal of being that star player at a certain club. So many different teams must have took a tole on his mentally. Bouncing around always having to learn new ways to play soccer in order to make that coach of the club where is playing at happy. The hardest thing I have done is play with a new soccer team because I was not use to their play style which threw me off I could only imagine Adu. Great article with great picture.

  6. This is a really interesting topic about Freddy Adu. I don’t know much about the game of soccer or who the players are but it sounds to me like this individual’s skill were a lot higher than most average professionals. Even though he had so much talent in soccer he was over looked by other teams. Professional sports is very competitive and it is a very hard career especially if you are over looked to get signed by a team.

  7. You often see very talented players at a young age, who look to become one of the best in the game, just disappear after a little while. This is always very unfortunate to see, because all you can do is just think about how things could have gone differently. Often times its hard to put a finger on what really went wrong and why things didn’t work out as expected. On the other hand it often takes a lot of perfection in all kinds of aspects of the sport to eventually break through as one of the best.

  8. Soccer is never my first choice to watch when it comes to sports. It is such a shame that so much talent can be looked over or never noticed because of circumstances that athletes go through. I feel as if this probably happens across the board in many other sports, not just soccer. Being a professional athlete is a great test of a person in so many aspects. It is definitely not for the weak. This article was a great read!

  9. I am not a huge follower of soccer but I am pretty sure that if I was, I would have definitely wanted to follow his journey as through history. I think it is pretty crazy how he had such great talent but was never fortunate enough to settle and perform his sport. With his hard work and never getting signed it must have been a terrible feeling.

  10. Some people just never find their right place, like Freddy Adu, which is regretful, but a cruel reality for many talents or possible talents. In the competitive world, after all, only a few remain, and just a minority is able to resist the immense pressure of being always in the search of recognition. Poets, artists, intellectuals, any field has the same struggles for the same kind of people: those who seek for success.

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