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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. This is all JOJO’s fault. if she would hav never broken up with him their would never be this mess. If we can just get them together somehow… like ill tell freddy to meet me at the ritz in monte carlo and jojo’s just happens to be their…

  2. Freddy Adu is just like soccer in America. Full of potential short on realization of said potential.

    Maybe we just have to face it, the kid is not that good. He barely played in the MLS. He complains about the position he plays. Why can’t we focus on the guys around his age who are good and get PT? Jozy, Bradely, Cooper, Edu…..

  3. Adu needs to play, pure and simple. He actually played very well for Benfica in those few chances he was given. His goals/minute ration was outrageous there. The loan to Monaco, given the style they play, never made any sense at all. An internal move within Portugal, to a side that would have set him as a starter, and let him play AGAINST the top clubs such as Porto, Benfica, Sporting, etc…, would have been more beneficial.

    In the end, any promising young player has a higher chance of realizing his potential by [a] playing games, and [b] playing games against the top flight.

    Training sessions are fine, but direct competition against the best is the best stimulus to growth.

    Adu’s advisors are failing this young man, badly.

  4. nope:

    Adu is a joke and all hype. He loafs around the field when he doesn’t have the ball. He can’t keep it when he does because he isn’t strong enough.

    Adu is a joke. Give up already.

  5. I don’t think a quarter of these guys confirming Freddy as an overhyped failure (at 19) really know what they’re writing about. Look at Junior Bradley for instance, he ain’t exactly lighting it up at Monchengladbach (Gesundheit!), or even Onyewu when he was at Newcastle. I didn’t know that someone, a kid at that was who has only sparse time to play is supposed to be harshly judged for having a rough game. What about Feilhaber at Hamburg—his game changing mistakes and then he couldn’t get a game at Derby—Or Donovan at Leverkusen, playing against Liverpool or Bocanegra’s time at Fulham? He’s made some misplays too. Leave the Kid alone! The only thing I regret was that he left Benfica. It wasn’t so much him as it was that goofball coach of his who can barely stay on a team himself!

    And another thing! Instead of talking about him leaving he needs to dig his heels in and stay where he is, and learn from his mistakes, instead of bouncing from club to club thinking if he’s not playing it’s because he’s being persecuted. Moving should something for him to focus on when he’s 21.

    Go Ajax!

  6. I agree with the reader comments that recommend bringing Adu back to the MLS and let his game mature here instead of overseas.

    I’ll pay to watch him play again for the MLS.

  7. I’d see how the coach and team react from yesterday first. If they blame Adu, then he should move. If they keep giving him chances, he should stay. Look at Clint Dempsey now if you think working hard and not getting much action for a year cannot pay off. Adu may need to just keep plugging away. He hasn’t spent a full year with Monaco. I think everyone, including Ives, needs to practice some more patience.

  8. Very hard to say that playing well in the Olympics shows that he is improving.

    In the past he dominated at the youth level and struggled against full professionals.

    Still the same song.

  9. With all due respect, please point out to me how the last two Bordeaux goals were Adu’s direct fault. The first one was off a set piece. Should we expect pretty short Adu to be the guy to mark out a player on corner kicks? On the second goal, Adu didn’t look that close. Perhaps that’s fault in and of itself. Please explain.

    I don’t think jumping around from club to club is going to help Adu and I don’t think moving down a division or league is going to help him psychologically. He needs to stay and fight and not give up. Success is often the result of not giving up, especially in situations where most rationale people would just throw in the towel.

    Adu is getting playing time. He just got to Monaco less than half a season ago. The coach believes in him enough to give him some minutes and with some perseverance Adu will break through. Clearly Adu is doing enough in practice to get those minutes. Look, after 19 games, Monaco has a less than 0.500 record and is 14th in the table. The whole team is under pressure to succeed and needs to come together to fight. No one is having tremendous success there. Adu is first off the bench there with more substitute appearances than any other player, that’s not exactly terrible.

  10. allegre, I he was one of the non-DPs due to grandfathering before, so I doubt the league would make him one if he returned.

    But his cap effect would be similar to a DP, basically he wouldn’t take a slot.

  11. He has had the opportunity because the coach did not want him. Ricardo admitted this to a Portuguese newspaper- he said De Bontin wanted Adu to attract American investors. Adu is not his style of player and he has been reluctant to give him more than a few minutes here or there. Ricardo’s style is a horrible fit for him- it’s Coca Cola league route 1- hit it long to the target forward.

    He had bad luck with Benfica going through managers faster than rolls of toilet paper, then his agent got him a horrible loan move to a club that doesn’t fit his style or want him. So far in his European career he’s had a manager that actually brought him to the club for about 5 games at Benfica. Camacho seemed to like him too but then he got fired.

    Also, maybe he shouldn’t have given up that corner, but he wasn’t solely or even primarily responsible for blowing a 3 goal lead. If they had defended the corner better, no one would be talking about Adu’s clearance.

    That said, I agree he needs to take a step down and find a manager that wants him and wants to play him!!!

  12. So should all the young Americans who aren’t playing much with their first half a season with a new team jump ship also?

    It’s ridiculous to think that after 1/2 of a season, he should move again. I agree it probably wasn’t the best decision to go to Monaco. That being said, you just can’t expect an unestablished player to move into a new team and click. It takes time people. Oh wait this is the instant gratification crowd isn’t it?

  13. I think there have been unreasonable expectations from the beginning with Adu. Annointing a 14 year old the next great thing is naive. Just because a kid has precocious talent at that age does not translate into success long term. People always point out Messi or Maradona as an example of kids identified very young and delivering on their promise. But they and their ilk are the exeption and not the rule. For every Messi or Maradona in Argentina or Spain there are 50-60 kids who have unbelievable talent who don’t end up making it. You just don’t hear about them. The real “problem” will be “solved” when the U.S. produces hundreds of 14 year old Freddy Adu’s. Then one or two of them will turn out to be the real deal and the Freddy Adu will be not have as much expectations hyped on him (and if he fails, not so unexpected). I’m not saying that Freddy can’t make it still, but only that his early talent is by no means an indicator that he WILL make it.

  14. He can’t just up and leave Monaco. It doesn’t work like that. He is loaned out and subsequently under contract to Benfica. I wish he could up and pack his bags but the reality is he can’t. He by himself, screw the agents, just needs to sit down and have a heart to heart with all the parties involved, Benfica and Monaco. They all need to determine the problem and find a course of action. Bouncing from club to club isn’t going to do him any favors. Adu’s been a victim of circumstances, some his fault, some not. The bottom line is he needs to play. He needs to do whatever it takes to get on the pitch. In that’s return to Benfica, fight it out at Monaco, or lobby for another loan so be it. I feel for him. I feel for for the National team. There’s no doubt Adu has a great deal of pressure unfairly placed on him. But the ball’s in his court. He has to deal with it; just tune it out and focus. Adu has talent, I don’t think he’s overrated per se but i do think he’s not a world class talent. That’s ok 90% of professional players aren’t either.

  15. Freddy still has skills but if you can’t get more than 15 minutes on a team missing six starters due to injury and suspension, then chances are you will not get a whole lot of minutes when those guys are back. Time to move on. Holland is a good place for him. We don’t need him to develop into another defensive mid. We have plenty of those. He needs to work with coaches, systems and players that will make him run on and off the ball (he just doesn’t look very fit) for 90 minutes and learn from more creative tacticians that will help him find his game. Holland has always been a good school for that. Maybe he can spend some time with Earnie Stewart.

  16. Too all those condemning Freddy for choosing to go to MLS rather than overseas: HE WAS 14!!!!

    What would you have done at 14?!?!? Would you have enjoyed the prospect of living abroad, in a place you have never been, in a culture that would be completely new to you? Do not condemn a 19 year old, who was forced into such a ludicrous decision at 14!!!!! And it was likely his mother that made the decision anyway.

  17. What mistakes did Freddy make? Did you guys watch the game? He gave up a needless corner kick that led to the equalizer, then he took an ill-advised shot when they needed to hold on for the tie and Bordeaux came right down and scored. Now I don’t think the second goal was all his fault but it wasn’t a smart decision by him.

    I bet he doesn’t get any more minutes for Monaco. Time for him to head to Belgium or Denmark.

  18. I second Tribe Rules – what were his errors?

    I also think that criticism of his decision to not go into a Euro academy when he was 14 is a bit off the mark. A 14 year old kid is just a kid. Yeah, he pulled down more greenbacks in a year than he would at a Euro academy (and more than I’ve made in my whole pathetic life), but US players have not to date had loads of success in Euro youth systems.

    The reason I don’t think he’s going to make a downward move is that he likes the sweet talk he gets. He is FREDDY ADU and was in a commercial with frickin’ Pele! So he tends to believe that he should and will have a place on a Benfica or a Monaco, and it doesn’t seem like he thinks very skeptically about the prospects of that happening – which is another huge weakness as a player and arguably is his biggest because it prevents him growing. Of course, this is mere speculation on my part…

  19. It’s not that we are not up to par with the world. It’s we have to understand that there is a process and path to development being used elsewhere that is more refined than what we have here.

    Part of the problem here is the “snowflake” syndrome. It is the term used on of how parents see their kids as snowflakes. If a kid has one ounce of talent here, we anoint them as a “great” player. Yet, people forget the 10,000 hour rule. Does not matter if you are a musician, an athlete, or a writer. It takes 10,000 hours to become master of your art, sport, etc.

    See, the snowflake syndrome ignores this fact. “My kid is good, can’t you see?” So, politics and positioning and money are what determine which talent is given the recognition, or not.

    In Freddy’s case, we treated him like a snowflake forgetting that he was indeed just 14. He now sees himself as a snowflake because as someone pointed out, he does not see the holes in his game.

    So, our collective snowflake, Freddy Adu needs to get himself in a situation where he is playing regularly, he has a mentor and a plan to make himself a complete player. He has about 3 years to make it happen. Otherwise, he is another great youth player that feel through the cracks.

    Look at the Belletti kid at Inter. they are letting him develop, aren’t they?

  20. At 19, the BOY has many years ahead of him.

    One bad game (er, 15 minutes), where he wasn’t even on the field when his team gave up the first two goals of their lead, isn’t the end of his career. If someone wants to pin that loss on him, they’re being naive.

    That team has struggled all season, without FA being in the line-up much at all.

    Keep at it Freddy. Nobody has an easy ride in Europe. It’ll only make you better.

  21. Putting aside the argument of his development, can someone please explain the mistakes he made yesterday? From Biogsoccer (and it is not exactly clear)he went for a shot and then the other team went 90 yards to score. The second goal was off a corner kick after he kicked it out of bounds (perhaps needlessly). Those don’t sound like signs of the apocalypse. Did the coach come out and say very negative things?

  22. Freddy to Liege!! Defour and Witsel and Jovanovic and Mbokani and De Camargo are all rumored to be leaving to bigger clubs. I think Adu would fit in to that counter-attacking style of play really well.

  23. either a move to spain or holland…. it could be division 2 in spain…. but he needs to go to a league that seems to be more free flowing, constant attacking…

    and we as fans need to realize that he’s young and not going to be an instant starter…

    i will not object the idea of staying at monaco merely to continue to fight and grow… i think constantly moving will do more harm in the long run…

  24. Great piece Ives,

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now as well and my personal conclusion can be based on two things: Firstly, why does Freddy think he should go to a big club when it’s pretty obvious he’s not going to start every game? Sure the boy has talent, no doubting that, however he should as you suggested to to a smaller club in France, Portugal, Spain, Germany or wherever. That way he should get more playing time and develop more, especially with the world cup 18 months away. He’s still 19 so time is on his side.

    Secondly, what is his natural position? He’s not a winger, not an out and out striker so you could say maybe he can play either in the centre of midfield or the second striker being the link from midfield to up front? That’s up for debate but my point here is that is party the reason what is holding him back because he has so much natural ability he is used in a number of positions.

  25. As an RSL fan I was glad to see Adu leave. In his short stint with Salt Lake he produced very little if anything. I was blown away when Benfica picked him up….and I guess they were blown away by how overhyped he is. Did they even scout the kid? I am not surprised by his lack of playing time; he didn’t deserve it while he was at RSL, why would he think he’d get any in Europe?

  26. Couple of thoughts:

    1. Maybe Fred should return to MLS. It isn’t working out for him in Europe and he needs first team PT. He should return to MLS and lock down a place in the first eleven for an MLS team and try to establish himself as an international player.

    2. Can’t help it but the thought that he is older than he (and or his mom) claims to be is beginning to creep into the picture again. Maybe he is really 22-23 and now that he is a man playing against men,…he just isn’t that good. [See Barry Swift]

  27. I wonder if MLS would consider bringing back Adu on loan, similar to what they did with Donovan years ago. Adu would get some solid playing time and a chance to get refocused, while the league would have a big name American to promote, if for just a season. You can’t tell me there wouldn’t be at least a half dozen teams in MLS that wouldn’t take him in a second.

  28. Ives, I agree with you. I saw Adu play a lot in MLS. It was funny to read the Adu-apologists who argued that Nowak was holding Adu back. That Nowak was jealous, that Nowak resented him, that Nowak didn’t trust youth, that Nowak only played guys who ran hard and defended (Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez–yep, the archetypes of Eastern European footballers). Nowak is probably the closest to a European club coach that Adu ever played for before actually going to Europe. And Adu was supposed to flourish under his former U-17 coach (Ellinger). Or Schmid with the U23’s. Or Rongen. Or once he got to Europe when he’d be surrounded by players worthy of his passes who weren’t pedestrian or jealous of his talent.

    I think we’ve found out several things about Adu:

    1. He has some major holes in his game. He doesn’t defend or tackle well. Positioning, showing for the ball–weak most of the time. He also disappears for big chunks of time in almost every game he plays 90 minutes–a terrible habit to have for an A-mid.

    2. Some of his physical limitations mean there are some positions (like outside mid) that he’s a terrible fit for.

    So positionally and tactically, there are very few positions on the field he can play (realistically, A-mid and withdrawn forward). Those are also two of the toughest positions to win PT with for a good club in a good league (let alone a strong club in a very good league).

    I think Adu can still turn into a incredible soccer player. But I actually think he might have to go to something lower than Spanish-2. It’s not enough for him to play regularly, he needs to be in a position of responsibility–where his team looks at him to run the attack and he’s probably one of the 2-4 best players on the field for his team (not “most skilled” but “best players”). Frankly, I’m not sure even MLS would qualify–most teams in MLS wouldn’t pencil him in as an automatic starter at A-mid or withdrawn forward (or they could find a better contributor for the amount of money they’d be paying him).

    Or his other option is to fill in the holes in his game so he has more positions and roles he can play–be more of a 2-way attacking mid, be able to play holding mid or outside mid. Then he’s not competing for PT at only 1-2 positions on a strong team but at 5 positions on a strong team.

  29. Couldn’t agree more, but instead of playing in Belgium or a lower division in a bigger country, why not come back to MLS for a few seasons? Maybe he needs to be back home where he is comfortable, play 2 or 3 seasons in MLS and then head back to Europe. By that time he’ll be 22 at the oldest, it’ll be like he just graduated college, with the exception that he will have played for 7 or 8 seasons of pro soccer. Just a thought.

  30. I think Freddy’s decision to turn pro at 14 looks bad now, but let’s face it there are plenty of ‘can’t miss’ prospects that never make the grade.

    By turning pro at 14 during the height of his hype, he pickedup over $1m in salary from MLS, plus countless endorsement deals. The kid was a multi-millionaire by 15. Not all bad. It only takes one bad tackle and a 14-19 year old (or any age) could be out of the game for good. He did well to get money in the bank in a vocation that is extremely short, even for those that ‘make it’.

    That all said, I think he needs to go to a smaller club and start, France is fine, as is Spain or Holland….just somewhere he can start. Leaving Benfica for MOnaco made little sense, he needed to drop down for minutes, not move sideways and find himself in the same boat.

    Plenty of time left Freddy, but it’s time to start making it count…

  31. I think Freddy might benefit from returning to America to play in MLS for a few years, then trying his luck overseas again when he is a little older. Sort of the same path Landon took. Freddy is still so young and has tons of potential. I am nowhere near ready to give up on him and I believe he still has the right tools to become a world class player. It’s possible that trying to make the first team at Benfica and now Monaco, combined with learning new languages, adjusting to European life, being away from friends and family, etc. might have been a little too much to handle. I can’t imagine that it’s an easy task.

    Come back to the US, hone your game in the MLS, and give Europe another shot when you’re more developed as a player and as a person.

  32. so let me get this straight, Freddy turned down the opportunities to develop in established European clubs’ youth development systems (I think ManU, Arsenal, Barcelona all have excellent track records with developing young talent) and instead deciding to turn pro in the MLS (where there are no reserve teams again, forget high level youth competitions). This decision is biting him in the foot.

    I think this is an example, when faced with the enormous talent that Freddy possesses, the USA and MLS does not have the infrastructure to nurture this type of player. What is a 14yr old doing on a team of 20 and 30 yr olds? People that age need to be given the chance to play and practice against those near their own age, Freddy was/is a freak of nature and could handle it (sort of), now he’s adrift while other slightly older lefties are considered the best in the world (Messi).

  33. I second the Spanish Second Division.

    I was initially thinking Dutch league, but if he’s having trouble with the defensive aspect of his game, the Dutch aren’t really the best to work that out, are they? Is it his defense that needs work, or is it his all-around game?

  34. the problem with adu is that i think he believes he is better than he actually is, even though he will never say it. Its almost as if he has a certain swagger about him, and in this case he cant back it up with his game.

    I dont think he’ll ever develop into the player we hoped he would. Hell. i dont think he’ll ever develop into a full starter for the US National Team either. He isn’t a complete player…and no matter how many tricks and no look passes you can do…if you cant get it done, you cant get it done.

  35. Freddy Adu = Most overrated U.S. prospect ever. I’ve never been a fan of his. He’s good for a couple “oohs and aahs” but when it comes to cruch time, he just doesn’t get the job done. He’s been overhyped since he was 14. Too much pressure for a young kid like that.

  36. This is a case where I wouldn’t mind seeing an American player go to Scandinavia. But, if he can go to Segunda Division in Spain or Ligue 2, I’d be for it. I just don’t want Freddy to be Eddie Johnson 2.0


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