Freddy’s Dead?


Curtis Mayfield’s song “Freddy’s Dead” popped into my head as I watched Bob Bradley sub Freddy Adu out in the 64th minute of the US 2-0 win over Honduras in their Gold Cup game. Adu played up front with Brian Ching and looked completely lost making no significant contribution to the game while his replacement Charlie Davies sparked the US rally with his energetic play.

Shortly after the game, Bradley contradicted earlier statements about Adu getting a chance to prove himself telling reporters that Adu was headed back to Portugal for preseason training with his club Benfica.

Why then did Bradley practically label the Gold Cup as Freddy’s coming out party after sitting him on the bench for the entire Confederations Cup? Adu did manage to score a goal against a Grenada team that a dozen college teams could have beaten. Adu’s return to Portugal prevented him from getting the real test of playing against better teams in the knockout rounds and the final. Getting a couple of goals against Mexico to win the Gold Cup would have done wonders for Adu’s confidence. Instead Adu sleepwalked through his time on the field and disappeared like he went into witness protection.

Adu presents a major problem for Bob Bradley. He’s far too skillful to be ignored but he doesn’t really have a clear cut role.

Adu’s natural position is attacking central midfielder but he can’t handle the responsibilities of the position for that to be a realistic option.  Even with his ball control and dribbling skills Adu seldom  beats defenders and too often turns the ball over. The idea of using a playmaker midfielder sounds good in theory however, Adu lacks the vision and passing skills to be the focus of the US attack.

Adu as a wide midfielder? Nope, way too slow to beat defenders and get crosses in and still the issue of over dribbling aimlessly.

In the Gold Cup Bradley opted to put Freddy in the only remaining spot available and that is as a  forward complimenting either Jozy Altidore or Brian Ching. Again the lack of pace is a killer as Adu struggles to create space for himself and others. The lack of speed isn’t the only problem with Adu as a striker. Its his inability to see the game and be a step ahead of defenders. Strikers like Gerd Mueller and Gary Lineker were no speed merchants but they compensated with superb timing and exceptional quickness over short distances. They magically appeared out of nowhere to find a hole in the defense to tap a ball into the goal. Adu never anticipates those plays and make the 10-15 yard run to be in finishing position. 

It doesn’t help that Freddy rots on the bench of Benfica or Monaco where he was trasferred last season. From that perspective it made sense for him to return to Portugal to have any chance of breaking into the regular rotation.

 So how is Freddy Adu’s abrupt exit from the Gold Cup to be interpreted? Was Bob Bradley so unimpressed by the game and a half effort that he sent Adu packing? Or was it just a practical consideration that wasn’t communicated to the media and public effectively?

Its still not too late for  Adu to get his act together and become at least half the player he was hyped to be as a 14 year old prodigy. The first step should be to go out and hire the best strength and conditioning coach he can afford to maximize his fitness and quickness. The second is to get a transfer to a place where he can play on a regular basis between now and next March when the final selections for the World Cup 2010 roster are announced. The last thing is to embrace the fact that few players are as gifted as he is and it would be a crime to waste such talent. People love to blame the American soccer system and coaches for the sad state of Freddy Adu’s lack of career progress. Somewhere down the line, Freddy needs to realize he is the only one who can save his career from an early death and do something about it.

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPSis a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at


~ by zrwoodard on July 13, 2009.

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