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Monday Morning Centerback: Adu needs another fresh start

Freddy Adu 1 (AFP)

Nobody ever said things would be easy for Freddy Adu, but things are starting to get really tough for the young American playmaker.

Struggling badly for playing time for AS Monaco all season, Adu took the field late in a match Monaco was leading 3-2 against Bordeaux. A pair of Adu mistakes later, Monaco was dealt a painful 4-3 loss by Bordeaux and viewers in America watching on Setanta Sports were left wondering if, and when, things would start to turn around for Adu.

Here is a 19-year-old kid who has now gone a full calendar year without getting significant playing time on the club level, and may get even less than the scrapes he's been getting for Monaco after Sunday's disaster. The darling of so many American soccer fans who love his skills and seemingly boundless potential have to start wondering whether it is time to stop blaming coaches for not playing him and start accepting the possibility Adu isn't playing more because he isn't good enough.

This was the case at Benfica and is looking like the case at Monaco, which is why Adu needs to find a new club, someplace he will have the chance to play and develop into the player so many believe he an become.

It is unfair to expect a player his age to be the finished product, but what we can do is start to question whether Adu needs another move in order to start playing enough to really grow as a player. He has said in countless interviews that his time at Monaco is helping him grow as a player, but Adu's 15 minutes against Bordeaux showed us a player who didn't at all look ready for the pressure of a match against top-flight competition.

It is time for Adu to leave Monaco and find a club where he will play regularly. Such a move wouldn't be a case of a veteran giving up rather than fighting for his place, but rather a needed move by a young player who is still trying to find a good level to grow at. Fifteen minutes a month at Monaco isn't cutting it and Adu needs to accept that he would be better served plying his trade somewhere like the Spanish second division or Belgium, or perhaps with a smaller club in France.

You could argue that the battle for playing time Adu is going through at Monaco will only help him grow as a player. Yes, competing for a place can help a young player grow, but Adu just spent most of 2008 fighting a losing battle for playing time both at Benfica and Monaco and at some point his lack of playing time is going to hurt him far more than the competition for time will help him.

Has Adu really grown as a player in 2008? He certainly showed glimpses, whether in senior national team cameos, or with the U.S. Olympic team, but it can be argued that the glimpses he has shown are a testament to his natural talent rather than the benefits or results of the adversity he has endured on the club level. You could just as easily argue that his lack of playing time on the club level are the reason why we are still only seeing glimpses of greatness rather than real development and signs of Adu becoming a complete player.

Again, Adu is still just 19. That is easy to forget considering how long he has already been a pro and how long he has been dealing with the blinding glare of expectations and hype surrounding his career. It would be extremely premature to say Adu will never be good enough, or that he doesn't have the talent to succeed in Europe's top league. Special ability is there, but ability and potential aren't enough. They are not enough for the national team and they are not good enough for the European top flight.

This is why Adu needs to leave Monaco and find a smaller club or smaller league to play in. He is still just a teenager and there will be plenty of time to conquer Europe's top leagues in the future. Right nowAdu needs to go somewhere he will play and have a real chance to grow as a player.

What do you think about Adu's situation? Share your thoughts below.


  1. It astounds me how US fans are ready to give up on Adu.

    He plays with creativity and vision, and possesses skills to simply take players out of the play. Am I the only one who saw him create a goal out of NOTHING in the U-20 cup against Brazil (when he was 2 on 1 in the corner and he flicked the ball back and split them before putting in a driven ball that was put in by Jozy)?

    Or his set up pass to Sacha against the Dutch U-23s in the Olympics?

    He may not be cut out to be a consistent starter for the MNT for quite a while, but he’s got bags of quality.

  2. I suggest a club that plays in the Coca cola championship, the dutch league, the irsih or scottish leagues or even going back to the MLS.

  3. Andy, you’re correct in saying that Pato had a an average to below average U-20 tournament and that Altidore and Adu played better, but Pato had the better track record and has definitely outperformed Adu at the club level. He’s already scored 15 goals for Milan since joining the team in 2007 in what is the most defensive league in the world.

    Adu had a good tournament, but what had he done at club level before then? At the time of the tournament he was struggling while he was at Real Salt Lake.

    Also, I don’t know when you played in Europe, and I don’t doubt that there are people that are going to look down on American players, but I find it hard to believe that a coach would bench a player simply because he’s American despite of his skill-set. I don’t think any coach on earth would do that. That excuse just comes from insecurity that a lot of Americans still carry when it comes to soccer. We like having that chip on our shoulder. The truth is, we haven’t earned the soccer world’s respect yet. Our goalkeepers have, but not our field players. We have to prove it first. Maybe Donovan will be that player, though I won’t hold my breath.

  4. It is time for Freddy Adu to leave Monaco and Benfica and get a place in the Eredivisie.

    The Dutch system and style of play will suit a player like Adu much more than Portugal and France. The Dutch focus on tactics and attacking football, much more than the French. Added to that fact is that the Dutch are much more successful at developing young talent like Adu. He doesn’t have to go to Ajax, but even a mid table team would be good.

    But here is another thought. Freddy is asked to be and wants to be a playmaker and play that role. But such skill, knowledge, vision and tactical acumen takes time to develop. Thus, he has to get playing time in order to make that happen.

  5. TO JC…Being someone that has actally played in Europe… I can promise you that there is a “stigma”. It is not as bad as it was 10-15 years ago but it does still exist. Read a Fulham messageboard and get an idea of what over half the posters think about American players…

    You mentioned Donovan…while loads of us get annoyed with him, we all know is a high calibur player and only now will he get a serious chance to play…why? Because of Jurgen (who likes America and removed himself from the bias long enough to give American players a look).

    Another great example on the Adu situation is Pato for AC Milan…he gets sold for a gazillion dollars and gets instant chances to start @ AC even thuough anyone (like me) who watched every U20 WC game knows that Freddy and Jozy were much better in the tournament…why is that… Because Pato has a Brazilian passport which carries precendence…

    I realize we lack coaching here (one if the reasons I personally went to England @ 16) but in regards to athleticism and technical ability…we are not nearly as far off as you might think… we lack in tactical knowledge and still have to try and catch up in that area.

    I can promise if given the chance guys like Boca, Gooch, Dempsey, Adu, Altidore, Donovan, Klejstan, Davies and others can perform at near the highest level. Hopefully Landon will set the Bundesliga alight and even old Becks will play well to show the bias Europeans that we can play this game if given all the resources that their youngsters get.

    off my soapbox now… as for Eddie Johnson… the kid just does not know where to be on the field and how to get open without running way offside… Brian McBride really should have mentored him better in that area because his whole problem @ Cardiff is he is so clueless tactically and he is also lazy when that is the exact opposite thing he needs to be (since he has no clue where to run when they have the ball).

  6. Players like Adu are a dime a dozen in the footballing world. Adu is not the only player dealing with high expectations and unfulfilled potential.

    Two examples, Fabio Paim was labeled the Portuguese Ronaldinho at the age of 18, since then he has been loaned out to 5 teams within 2 years, Chelsea being one of those teams. He has barely played and has yet to earn playing time. Why? because he is not a pure winger neither does he track back on defence.

    Celsinho, another player compared to Ronaldinho, played 4 games in Russia and 1 for Sporting, he is now loaned out to Estrela Amadora and not doing much there. He has the same flaws as Paim and Adu.

    In Portugal, there are two formations commonly played. 433/451, where there is a CF with two winger/forwards and behind them there are 3 central mids, one holding and the other two switch responsibility between defending and attacking. Many Adu apologists and objective observers say he is not a winger and that he doesnt track back. So, where is he going to play in that formation? Where do guys like Celsinho or Paim play in that formation? The answer is that they dont. A guy like DiMaria plays ahead of Adu because he can play the wing.

    The other formation, some call a diamond 442 or losango style. Plays more like a 4132. The three mids behind the striker ahead of the trinco(holding mid) are not 2 wingers, one a-mid. they are seen as three attackers that are interchangeable. For Sporting, they go with Moutinho, Rochemback and Romagnoli only one of them is a pure winger, one of them is super slow and the other is a box-to-box mid, but despite their labels they have the versatility to make it work. DiMaria played more than Adu because he knew how to play and could play with Rui Costa. Adu couldnt or didnt know how to play with Costa and he was not going to get the same freedom as Costa, neither was he going to play in Costa’s position. Adu was seen as a sparkplug off the bench, not as a full 90 player at Benfica.

    By the time a player is 20 they are what they are in terms of skill. The improvements made are in consistency, intelligence and fitness.

    The only way Adu makes those improvements is if he goes somewhere where he is given the freedom to be what he is. Adu may be like Guevara in that sense. When TFC played a 451 and Guevara was given the freedom to be an offensive weapon he played great for TFC. But, when TFC went to a flat 442 and Guevara was asked to play more box-to-box he struggled to make an impact on the game.

    Adu needs to play on a team where they will accept his flaws because what he does best is more important to them. Thats probably in the MLS.

  7. “Europeans still have a very large stigma on American players…”

    Ah, I was waiting for this one. The old “the coach hates Americans” excuse. I heard that one when Donovan bombed at Leverkusen. Heard it when Dempsey wasn’t getting playing time at Fulham. So it’s no surprise that it’s being said again now that Freddy has failed to nail a starting spot on his second Euro team.

    Listen, coaches don’t give a crap where their players are from as long as they can play ball. Do you think a coach would put his job on the line benching a game changing player simply because of his nationality? The thought of that is laughable. There is no conspiracy against American players. Every time he’s played with Monaco, he’s simply been nothing special. So far two teams haven’t had enough faith in him to plug him into the starting line up. That has to say something about him as a player.

    I agree that Freddy right now is “saying” all the right things, but whether he actually believes his own words is another matter.

  8. I’ve only seen him play a few times. But it seems like getting muscled off the ball is a problem. Isn’t this something that can be remedied to a degree with an offseason devoted to conditioning?

    I think people are too impatient with him. I also think that he is somewhat a victim of unrealistic expectation. Yes, he has some speed and dribbling ability. But is he a talent on the level of top European and South American or African talent? I am not so sure, though I think he still has time to prove that he is.

  9. Oh I get it, Adu gets crap for not being able to crack a team missing 11 top players.

    But when that team blows donkey b—-, it’s his fault, not the fact the team was missing 11 top players.

    I did watch the game, how can you blame his for not doing a good job of holding up the ball, that is not what he is used for! The coach should be shot if that’s what he was subbed on for. And Monaco was way on it’s heels and let 2 fly before he even got on the field. Give me a break.

  10. The sooner I stop reading about Adu the better. He has decent ball skills, but is not a complete footballer. Physically, other players his age have passed him by in terms of speed and strength.

    He was good at 14, but not 19. There are plenty of talented youngsters who do not pan out, and plenty of late bloomers who do.

    Time to move on.

    Matt L

  11. Leaving MLS was a bad move. A lot of people felt this way when he went and those people are being vindicated.

    Not playing has hurt his confidence. A player who isn’t confident cant succeed.

    When Adu wears the MNT shirt, he plays with boundless confidence. What he did in the U-20 cup was amazing. What he did with the Olympic team was fantastic. What he has done with the senior team has been very impressive (great game against Spain comes to mind).

    For Adu, I think what holds him back at this point is almost 90% mental. Get him in a comfortable situation where he fits in and he will blossom.

  12. How can anyone say they have the answer? Certain he’s a failure- of certain he’s just gotten the short end of the stick?

    I would love to see him on loan to a MLS side that was in Champions Leauge (DC?)

  13. Bottom line: if Freddie Adu went to a European training academy at 14, he more than likely would be playing for Ghana as his national team, like the other young talents who touched down in America only to play for their countries of origin. That being said, he’s only 19 and about 4 years removed from being termed a cautionary tale for the next generation of US soccer talents who didn’t take their development as seriously as they should have. If I was advising him, he needs to find himself a new team a level down where he can play every day: you don’t get any better watching. He absolutely should not ever return to MLS until he’s extinguished Europe entirely – Ligue 1 was such a terrible decision to begin with, because the nature of the defences and Americans have really never played there with any degree of success (Bocanegra notwithstanding). His game at this point seems so suited to Spain, even if its Segunda Division, where attacking players seem to get more space to operate, but that was also the reason why he went to Benfica.

  14. He needs to stick it out at AS Monaco. There’s something to be said for “finishing what you start.” The easy road is to run to a lesser league for more PT, which will not help him. He needs to mature, and part of that is realizing one’s shortcomings and working on them to be a better person, and in this case a better player.

  15. *”A pair of Adu mistakes later Monaco was dealt a painful 4-3 loss”* does make it sound like he actually caused the two goals doesn’t it?

    I mean reading that you would almost be surprised not see the own goal and penalty in the box he committed when reviewing the PBP

  16. “Struggling badly for playing time for AS Monaco all season, Adu took the field late in a match Monaco was leading 3-2 against Bordeaux. A pair of Adu mistakes later, Monaco was dealt a painful 4-3 loss by Bordeaux and viewers in America watching on Setanta Sports were left wondering if, and when, things would start to turn around for Adu.”

    The article in general is right that Adu would be better served at another club, but the above quote is, IMO, an unfair description of Adu’s game. It makes it sound as though he were directly at fault for both goals. For one, Adu lost the ball in the opposition box and Bordeaux scored on the next possession. For the other, Adu conceded a corner by clearing a ball that most players, including high class ones, would have cleared. Perhaps his concession of a corner was a bad play, but even that is being harsh.

    To describe his performance as Galarcep does is unfair and misleading.

  17. I’ve read every French account of the game from google and while I may have missed one, I have found no references to the play in question. 2 Recent accounts mock his clearance leading to the corner but the other situation is an exclusive to the American press.

  18. Did anyone actually watch this game? Ives? From what I’m reading, he gave up a ball on Bordeaux’s 15, meaning they had to go 85 yards to score. Surely you can’t blame him completely for that one.

    I’ve got the question putting Freddy in with a one-goal lead, anyway, if they need to play defensively. Ricardo doesn’t seem to know what he is doing with Adu.

  19. I’m not sold on the idea that Freddy is the Savior for American Football(tm) or anything, but the caveats listed above by Mike_D (who I hope is chillin’ on the beaches down in Club Med) do pertain here.

    Look back a year ago, and Adu is looking like a supersub for Benfica – several times coming off the bench to make an impact going forward. The fans liked him. But the coaching carousel there – and the complete farce that Benfica descended into in 07-08 – certainly left him feeling like a guy who needed to go elsewhere. And here’s Monaco, offering good money, ready to deal – the French Rivera, what’s not to like?

    A coach who has no intention of playing you, that’s what. Fred should ask some hard questions of his representation why they hammered through a deal to a team where the coach considered him a joke, a marketing ploy.

    Now he’s in the wilderness. Everyone’s game depends upon confidence and timing, and he’s got none of either wearing the Monaco kit right now. And the load to Monaco has transfer-tied him for the year, so he’s gotta gut it out.

    I know that everyone’s looking for a reason to doubt Freddy. Thing is, there’s no new ones here. He just isn’t playing, and not playing (really) for months can do that to you.

  20. On second thought, the whole “last man to possess the ball” before the other team scores from on a full field possession reeks of negative bias. My first take was not strong enough to express how unfair that commentary was.

    If an attacking player loosing the ball that far from goal is the “reason” for a score AS Monaco should just close up shop.

    I guess it had the desired impact, its being repeated by the soccer elite on “bigsoccer”

    Mission accomplished.

  21. “a pair of Adu mistakes” later seems like a unfair and piling on temark.

    Never in the history of soccer has a dispossession 85 yards from goal been turned into the reason for a goal, until now.

    The clearance across the end line clearly leaves his fingerprints on the corner goal but come on 85 yards away and he’s some how responsible. Ives I love your work but you are the first actual professional who tried to pin that one on him, unfairly in my opinion. If he had taken a shot and the keeper cleared to the side, then they scored would that also be his fault?

    He’s having a tough enough time this year without us creating blame for normal run of play outcomes.

  22. We’ll see how he responds.

    The true test in not in being mistake free, but how one responds to mistakes.

    Baeckham (Argentina red card in world cup), Gerrard (back pass results in goal vs. France), etc.

    Not to compare Adu to either of those player, but even the best make mistakes.

  23. I just watched the highlights of the goals, (though they were so short Freddy’s apparent blunders were not shown), and it appears to me that there were some players in Monaco’s defense who could equally be labeled as “goat” during the Bordeaux comeback.

  24. Bring ’em back home.

    Seriously. If they aren’t at least regular subs, bring ’em back home.

    The league would instantly get better, and with more teams participating in SL/CCL there is more quality competition.

    Players PLAY

  25. “Adu, Benny Feilhaber, Sal zizzo, lee nguyen, and any other talented american players struggling for playing time in europe should return or come to MLS. Look at robbie rogers, he turned out great this year.”

    Absolutely! Also, they should all be allocated to the Galaxy…

  26. Adu, Benny Feilhaber, Sal zizzo, lee nguyen, and any other talented american players struggling for playing time in europe should return or come to MLS. Look at robbie rogers, he turned out great this year.

  27. ok u kno what the only way that i want freddy back in mls is if he comes to the red bulls lol.. if he goes to any other team i disagree!!!

  28. Freddy Adu is a great player….

    see Olympic Performance and U-20 WC.

    He needs to find a club where he will get significant playing time, play him as a CF/CAM, and where he is the main attacking threat.

  29. I think there are still possibilities for Adu. He just needs a mentor. Hell rememeber when Kobe joined the Lakers, you could see he had raw talent but he was a mess. Eventually he found his place. A move to a loewr level might be good for Adu.

  30. I really, really don’t mean — and I mean REALLY — to compare Freddy Adu with Lionel Messi.
    But like Messi, Adu is short, slight in build and likes to be creative with the ball.
    Both are small, slight, and creative on the ball. (Though, yes, yes, Messi is 100 times more creative and an absolute magician.)
    But my point is, much of the knock on Adu is his work rate, his strength with holding the ball, and his defense.
    Messi overcomes his size by putting in work in all of the above. Messi isn’t just fun to watch with the ball but the kid is a maniac on the field. He can do it defensively and can mix it up in tight spaces.
    And that is what Adu has to learn. He has to learn what Messi has already mastered. In terms of aspects on the field besides tricks and fancy footwork.
    If Adu can learn to push himself in his work rate, defense and strength in holding the ball like Messi (or at least half as Messi does), he and we would be much better for it.
    Now go download some Messi tapes, young man.

  31. On the other end of the spectrum I think Freddy should fight and work hard to get playing time as opposed to simply saying his time at Monaco is done. Player’s careers are never always shinning, just ask Beckham. What mistakes was he making at Man U at 19. He didn’t pack it in and go somewhere else that would give him more playing time on name alone. Freddy needs to work and earn a starting place. If he is truly a gifted player he should be able to earn a spot at Monaco.

  32. FIRST OFF…while I get that most of you are soccer “fans”…most of you know know jack about the game. Freddy is a very talented player and still only 19 yrs old. He has been very unlucky and that fact that you guys are saying he needs to come back to MLS (no disresepect) or go to Denmark just shows how dumb you all are. Freddy is good enough to start for most teams in Ligue1 and most teams in the bottom of Spain…maybe not every match but he is still worth a lot of money.. .We are not talking about Steve Ralston, we are talking about a player that has most of the offensive tools that make the US Nats better (when played in the correct role) and will be a major part of our success as well.

    Europeans still have a very large stigma on American players and it does not help that Freddy is slight of stature and not the type player the manager likes.

    I think that Freddy could make a big splash @ a place like Almeria or Getafe who play very free flowing football.

    Get off the kids back, he is still very talented.

  33. Wow, did the site need a ratings boost or something? That seems to be the only reason to put out a Adu piece like this.

    The reasoning I see for Adu not seeing a lot of playing time is that he plays a position that not a lot of coaches want to turn over to a 19 year-old. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on a youngsters shoulders when a coach is trying to keep his job.

    Adu will be just fine. I don’t know what some people’s expectations were, but unless you are comparing him to the world’s best, then it’s obvious that he has talent. He’s good for serving up at least 3 or 4 quality chances a game while creating a few for himself in the process. Tell me what other US player does that.

    The kid at 19 looked classier than most other US players when we played against some of the world’s best.

  34. It looks like the tide is finally turning. I have been beaten up many times on this blog for suggesting Adu was just never that good in the first place, and never would be that good. I can honestly picture us all still having this same conversation many years from now.

    “Freddy is still young.”

    “He just needs to be with the right team.”

    “His coach is holding him back.”

    “He is still developing.”

    “He has a ton of talent.”

    Year after year after year.

    I think the best thing that could happen to Freddy Adu would be for him to be written off. You guys have played a major part in exaggerating how good he is. Instead of calling him what he is, you keep making excuses for him. You keep saying he needs to be on the U.S. National Team. When he doesn’t play well on the U.S. National Team you say he was wasted by being played in the wrong formation, or that he needed to be in the game from the start. When he has a few good touches or gets an assist or goal in an otherwise mediocre performance, you say he had a fantastic game, etc., etc.

    Let’s just face reality. Adu is WAY overrated. His biggest contribution to the game now may be that he becomes a perfect case study on how NOT to develop young talent. I don’t know who is more delusional, Freddy or his fans.

    All talk about playing for top teams should be stopped immediately. All hype should stop. From a coaching standpoint, Freddy needs to be brought back down to Earth. He needs to be told that at this point he is NOT really anything special and his focus should be on trying to salvage any kind of career where he can play regularly and make a significant contribution to his team on the field instead of being some petulant media darling who believes he will be great any day now, and everyone is just holding him back.

    Freddy needs to be put in the best possible conditions for his game and in a place where he can play ALL THE TIME. Europe at any level is NOT a good idea except in the few places in Europe where you might be able to get away with the South American style of play. Spain or Portugal could be alright but he has to go low enough to play all the time. Any place that requires toughness on defense and stern discipline by all players, and has much better alternatives to a player who can’t contribute now but thinks that someday he will be great, is NOT going to work. Even MLS could be a serious problem on many of the teams. If he gets over himself and comes back to MLS he needs to steer clear of coaches like Kreis, Schmid, Nowak, Hamill, Nicol, Preki, etc. Also, he needs to stay away from the big lights like New York and L.A. Somewhere like K.C. and Curt Onalfo might be a good choice. He HAS TO play wherever it is. Let’s forget about him for a while. Who knows, maybe someday he will rise from the ashes.

  35. oh yeah, smart move by the coach to insert an attacking player to shore up a 3-2 advantage. An error so egregious they should look into possible match fixing

  36. People who continue to diss Freddy, I have 1 question for you. Who in the picture for the USMNT brings the same skill set as Adu? I dont see anyone in the midfield who can break down a defence by dribbling when they pack it in. I dont see anyone who can take freekicks like him. I dont see anyone who has his attacking IQ. I dont see anyone who can deliver a defense splitting pass like him. Granted his defensive game leaves you wanting more, but if your looking to Freddy Adu to provide defense in the first place you obviously havent been following him. He’s never going to be a defensive machine or maybe even half good at defending. But thats why you pair him with a defensive MF like Bradley, Clark, or Mastroeni. Yes, maybe he should move but someone actually has to want to pay for him. You guys all gave LD crap when he came back tail between his legs after his stint in Germany saying he shouldve stuck it out, you gotta have heart, and any other cliche you can think of. Now Freddy is in the doldrums, and the first thing out of people mouths is “he should come back home”. Give me a break. Ill venture that Freddy is learning more in training sessions, video sessions, and becoming part of a team at Monaco than he could ever learn coming back to MLS. If anything, his agent should explore a move to Spain. More technical league where his talents could be better used. Im not gonna give up on Freddy because come the qualifiers and 2010 WC he is going to play a huge part for the USMNT

  37. listen all jokes aside.. everyone who is knockin freddy adu sorry but you are an idiot.. how many 19 year olds (thats like sayin a senior in highschool kid) can even practice on the same field as freddy isi playin against…freddy is still gettin stronger its not like he at his best..he is goin to get better but just need more time on field…u cant knock him jus for having one bad game here an there everyone has a slow time right now its prob his.. he will get in like 5 years these same guys that are like freddy aint nothing are gonna be like ..:” i always knew it” lol liars!!!….support usa players!!!!!!

  38. Its a shame that we had to hype him up so much and we didnt even notice Ibisevic(top scorer of the Bundesliga.)

    Still, give him time. The last thing he needs is to move.


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