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Tuesday Kickoff: On Adu’s MLS options

Freddy Adu ( 

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Where will Freddy Adu go next?

That's the decision the young midfielder is pondering after a second European club decided to give him back to Benfica after failed loan stints. Belenenses seemed like a good destination when Adu first went there, but the loan proved to be as pointless as his stint at Monaco.

As it stands, we have to at least consider the possibility that one of Adu's options is a return to MLS. If that is, in fact, one of the possibilities, we should start considering potential destinations.

Before we do that, it should be noted that no team in MLS is going to pay Adu what he was making in Europe. No team is spending a designated player slot on him. The only way Adu can return to MLS is if he takes a serious paycut, probably to $250,000 or lower. If Adu is willing to take that sort of paycut, then MLS should be an option again.

Here is a rundown of the clubs that might be potential destinations for Adu:


Not the first club you expected to see listed? It might actually make the most sense given Adu's ties to FC Dallas assistant John Ellinger and Schellas Hyndman's preference for young players. And David Ferreira? The club has yet to re-sign him, though given how well he played last year it would be tough to think that he wouldn't re-sign. Dallas might also have to consider the fact that the club has struggled to sell tickets and Adu just might be one of the few names who could draw fans to Pizza Hut Park (and yes, it would be ironic if he returned to MLS and joined Dallas considering Dallas was basically strong-armed by MLS into giving up the No. 1 overall pick D.C. United used to draft Adu almost six years ago).


Sounds like crazy talk doesn't it? Peter Nowak couldn't possibly want to re-unite with Adu after their first marriage at D.C. United. Right? Don't be so sure. I spoke with Nowak at length about Adu earlier this fall and didn't get the impression that he held any grudges against the midfielder. It should be noted that Adu played for Nowak on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 (and played well at times). Why would it make sense? Nowak would be the one in total control this time around, unlike back in 2004, when Adu was essential Major League Soccer's golden goose. Nowak just might be the coach to bring the best out of Adu (or finally break him). At the very least, Philly will likely help determine where Adu goes since it holds the No. 1 spot in the new MLS Allocation Order.


Would D.C. really bring back the player it unloaded happily just a handful of years ago? It could make sense for a variety of reasons. Christian Gomez is on his last legs, D.C. is a club that has long catered to one-way playmakers like Adu and Curt Onalfo did a good job of resurrecting Eddie Johnson's career at Kansas City. Adu reviving his career in D.C. would make for great headlines, and he would also be re-united with close friend and former U.S. Under-17, U-20 and Olympic teammate Danny Szetela, which might help both players find their form.


This destination might not sound like a natural fit, but with Houston set to lose Stuart Holden to Europe, the Dynamo just might have room for Adu's playmaking abilities. Head coach Dom Kinnear is one of the most respected coaches in MLS and is probably as well-suited to help Adu find his form as anybody. Kinnear also recently took a chance on another high-profile reclamation project in Luis Angel Landin so we know he's willing to gamble on young potential.


Could Adu really return to RSL and play in the stadium some people believe he helped build? No, not really. Real Salt Lake just won a title and boasts Javier Morales in the playmaker role. RSL doesn't need Adu, but I had to list the club since it was his last MLS destination (and because I wanted an excuse to run the great photo above). Then again, perhaps Adu could fill out the club's right wing role. On second thought, let's not completely rule this one out (and for those of you wondering, RSL doesn't still have Adu's rights if it spend the transfer funds it scored when he was sold to Benfica, which I believe is very likely).


The Red Bulls have longed for a productive playmaker since trading away Amado Guevara and Adu would offer up a marquee name as the club heads into a new stadium. No, this move doesn't really make much sense, but it's the Red Bulls so you can't rule out anything.


Where would you like to see Adu go in MLS if he came back home? Which club makes the most sense? Which club is the last place you think he should go?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. One of the fascinating aspects of this discussion and others like it is that some people can not accept that it is possible for people to fail to meet their goals through no fault of their own. If player X has not been successful, it must be because he has a bad attitude or because he has accepted bad advice or because he simply is not good enough. Of course, all of those may be appropriate explanations, but it is also true that many players (people) fail to meet their goals in life because of factors beyond their control.

    And this is particularly apt in the context of European soccer. Clearly there is an oversupply of professional soccer players and of aspiring professional soccer players in Europe. The competition is intense. Something like 80-90 percent of the 16 year olds on the books of professional clubs in England are not playing professional soccer five years later… and so on. And the expectation for many clubs is immediate success. Coaches don’t have the luxury of giving young players playing time. Even in the English lower divisions it is worthy of comment when a 18 or 19 year old plays.

    So why is it hard to accept the young Americans — foreigners with different training — don’t have immediate success in Europe? Why must folks assume that the players are at fault, that if they had the right attitude, they would succeed?

  2. Let’s assume everything you say is correct.

    He left DC 3-4 years ago and in football terms, that is an eternity. I saw him in DC as well and, while I’m not as positive about him as you, I will agree that he had something to offer. It seems as if that something has not been worked on since and that is a shame since 3-4 years of rust is a lot to knock off.

    Even for football he is quite small, slow and seemingly weak. Still, that is one area where a pro athlete can improve on their own (with professional help they can buy, if necessary, on their dime). Yet the few times I’ve seen Freddy lately, he doesn’t seem to have done much in this area, which is too bad because it would help him with his defense. You are aware of the rap against his defense. Defense is all about hard work and application and being fitter would help him as well. Small statured footballers can be excellent players and excellent defenders. Claude Makalele and Nobby Stiles are both about 5’6″ or less yet were among the best defenders of their time. Adu is allegedly 5’8″ but seems smaller. In general you just get the feeling that, while he may have been ill -served by his club situation, he hasn’t done all he could to help himself. Speculative, it’s true but that is all fans have.

    I agree it is easy for a young footballer to get lost in Europe; which is one reason why I thought Donovan’s decision to come back to the MLS as soon as he saw what was happening to him always seemed sensible to me.

    Apparently, Freddy or whoever is advising him, does not agree with me. I do hope he takes advantage of this alleged loan move to Greece (if the reports are accurate ) because it may be his last shot at the big time. Twenty is middle aged when you’ve been through that many clubs and been a pro for 6 years. If not so already, he will soon be trying to fight off younger, cheaper players who may be as talented if not more so.

  3. If size is such a problem how can you explain Lionel Messi, he’s smaller than Freddy but he still owns all defenders he takes on.

  4. The argument seems to be that Adu hasn’t gotten much playing time at several clubs and, therefore, it must his fault. That may be the case, but since no one seems to have witnessed any of the practices for any of these clubs or have first hand information from one of the coaches, this is all just speculation. And my point is that there is another explanation that accounts for all the facts — that is, that European soccer is intensely competitive and focused on immediate success and that, therefore, many young players get lost. Adu could be just another one.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that Adu is somewhat small and that his favored position is attacking midfielder where teams certainly prefer experience and that it is a position missing from many of the formations currently in favor.

    Having watched virtually every game Adu played for DC United I know that he has great strengths, including a willingness to work hard on the field — so I don’t buy many of the criticisms bandied about.

  5. ok, Adu needs to be smart and humble. he is still young, but lets be honest, besides the first stint with benfica (which wasnt that much success); he hasnt had much success else where abroad. MLS is not that bad,sure its not europe, but he needs confidence and more discipline.both of which can be obtained in MLS. there is no reason why he cant become a decent player.just go to MLS, play, learn, improve your work ethic and your body. then maybe when your older go give europe another chance. coming home and playing in MLS helped donovan become USMNT key figure, it just maybe the case for Adu. i dont believe nor did i ever believe the hype machine, but dont see why he cant learn and get better.

  6. Do you honestly believe that Freddy has no fault in this? 5 years, 4 clubs and very few goals and appearances after he leaves DC and he has no responsibility for his pathetic performance? With people like you blowing smoke up his rear no wonder he will never improve.

  7. You are assuming that Adu believes he has something to learn from coaches and other players. There are some who feel that is one of his two problems, though it is the one problem he can do something about if he chooses. The other problem is his size, which he can’t do much about. He can get physically stronger, but he will still be prone to being knocked off the ball by bigger defenders. All that absolutely lovely talent is for naught if the ball is not at your foot because you can’t hold it.

  8. Yes, Dom’s greatest strength is assembling a squad of guys who will play for one another. But, DeRo, IMHO one of the best players in league for 6 years (SJ and HOU), was not an issue…he was critical! He left b/c he was 30 years old, nearing contract end, and had chance to go home to TFC.

  9. I think coming back to the MLS is the right thing to do. I’d like to see him in New York, as that’s where I’m currently residing. I actually think Novak would take him in a second of the opportunity arose. I was in DC during that time and I really got the feeling there was epic mis-reporting about Novak’s attitude vis a vis Freddy. Now that I think about, I suppose as a US fan, that’s what I’d most want to see: Fred in Philly.

  10. Mikey D,

    Here are your words:

    “Another thing I have observed is what is with the work ethic of US soccer players in general? Landon’s failed stints in Germany, Altidore’s fitness at Hull, Adu in general. Davies and Onyewu are obviously hurt. It seems like Dempsey is really the only field player that is making a big impact in Europe right now.”

    The way your words read is that you are casting aspersions on “the work ethic of US soccer players in general”(direct quote Mikey).

    It makes more sense to think that those American players with “bad work ethics” have trouble adapting to the culture of their club.

    In other words, they may not communicate well with the staff and may not understand what is required of them. European coaches don’t sit you down and tell you what to do. They tend to let you figure it out on your own. By the time you do you may be toast.

    In Clint’s case, besides a coaching staff that was used to Americans, it is worth remembering that he had McBride and Bocanegra to teach him how to fit in and figure out what the coaches wanted.

    Bradley junior was someting of a football prodigy, having a dad for a coach and having hung around pro players since he was a kid. At Heerenveen I saw him give an interview in Dutch. Dutch is a pretty tough language to just pick up. US fans think Bradley Jr. is a moron but the evidence suggest he is very savvy and culturally adaptable. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is fluent in German.

    You short change the American outfield players because before they were hurt, Davies was a regular at Hammarby and Sochaux. Onyewu was a regular in Belgium for many years. It’s true he was taking a while to get into it in Milan but they generally take their time breaking in new players. So in recent years Bobby Convey,McBride, Bocanegra, Dempsey, Davies, Onyewu, Cherundolo, Demerit, Simek, and Bradley Jr. among others are American outfield players who have done well and played regularly at a fairly high level. Mcbride is retired, Convey got hurt and never got back into it, but all the rest are regulars for their club (when healthy) except for Onyewu, who really just got to Milan.

    Feilhaber is an example of a player who seemed to have problems with the staffs at Hamburg and Derby and then finally found a home in Denmark.

    So really, I can’t think of too many situations where an American outfield player went to Europe and got bounced out because was too big headed for the club and decided not to put in the work (Clint Mathis??).

    Talent and hard work is sometimes not enough.

  11. Your post makes a lot of sense, but I would say that Freddy does not have a lot of time to save his career, at least as an impact player who can earn big money.

    It’s true Freddy is only 20 but in pro football, 20 is pretty old. C Ronaldo was 18 when he went to Man U and was well on his way in a year or two; and there are many other examples. In Europe they believe that you basically have most of your skill set by about 13 and then after that it’s a question of how you body develops and how your “football brain” develops. It’s not that Freddy can’t develop his overall skills further but it gets harder to find soemone who will let you do that on their dime. And Adu is getting to be a pretty pricey “project”.

    If you have been a pro for 6 years like Freddy has and have yet to develop teams start to look elsewhere. The top teams don’t need or want to wait around that long for talent to develop. There are plenty of prospects, many of whom, have equal or even better talent than Freddy. Especially for the money.

    Adu’s may have a better skill set than any other American player (though that is debateable) but it doesn’t matter. Some kid will always come along. If coaches find Adu’s liabilities bigger than his assets, no sane coach will play him. Adu’s “skill” is completely worthless if he can’t convince a coach to play him. The evidence suggest he can’t do this.

  12. That wasn’t a broad statement that no one can develop in the States, we just don’t do a good job with the type of player Adu is. How many quality creative attacking midfielders does MLS produce? Wingers…yup, defenders…yup, keepers…yup, strikers…getting there. Center attacking mids, not so much

  13. Perhaps it’s pointless to introduce facts into a discussion like this, but, when Adu was at DC United, he was not a “one-way” player. He played outside midfield in a 3-5-2. The defensive responsibilities were considerable — basically from end line to end line and Adu was DCU’s most effective player in the position. Perhaps Adu would prefer to play elsewhere, but he is more than capable of playing outside and playing defense.

    It’s hard to know much about Adu’s experience overseas, but it is certainly clear that European clubs usually have more players than they know what to do with and that coaches are reluctant to play younger players — if only because coaches are expected to produce results quickly. Adu would not be the first good young player who got lost in the system through no fault of his own.

  14. Fredy Adu was at the Washington Wizards game last night, does that mean he going to play for DCU or is he here taking some time off before returning to Benfica?

  15. To imply that Revolution spend as much as other teams is deceptive.

    The real issue is: do the Revolution need another player, and the answer is clearly yes. Consider how much of the 2009 salary is currently being used. Twellman and Albright (23% of the 2009 salary) missed essentially all of last season, and may not return. Ralston and Reis (13%) finished the end of last season with serious injuries: Reis will miss the first 2-3 months of 2010, and Ralston turns 36 in June. Knighton, Heaps, Ombiogno, Larentowicz, and Badilla (14.5%) are either gone already, or are looking (JL) for another club. Jankauskas (10%) was injured for much of last year, and may not resign. Altogether that’s more than half the salary – and all the star-power except for Shalrie Joseph – that is potentially gone for next year. So if you’re inclined to defend the current management, see how they do salvaging the 2010 season first.

  16. My two cents (just because I feel like it): I really don’t see anything wrong with Richard’s initial comment. I don’t think he was calling you out, Ives. I think he just meant that he thought the issue was moot. And I think Ives overreacted a bit.

    But I think Richard’s follow up comments were silly. I consider this a blog with news and analysis and discussion, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I really like these kinds of posts because even though the exercise is somewhat hypothetical, Ives DOES communicate interesting info and knowledge about MLS in this post. And more importantly, it sparks fun discussion. Just because it’s speculative doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

  17. Here here’s my ideal FC Dallas lineup after an off season make over:

    1.FC Dallas negotiates a permanent deal for Ferreira.

    2.FC Dallas trades for the 1 allocation pick to get Lee Nguyen.

    3.FC Dallas signs Jay Needham, former SMU product.

    4.FC Dallas trades both their picks and Van Den Berg for the #2 overall pick and Kandji.

    5.FC Dallas drafts Ike Opara #2 overall

    6.With Van Den Berghs departure, Hyndman moves Pearce onto the left wing.








    In the Van Den Bergh deal, Dallas now has their backup forward in Kanji.

    The Attacking mids can be backed by Avila, Chavez, Nguyen, Andre Rocha(if he’s still here) and Levya.

    The Holding mid would be backed my Daniel Hernandez and Bruno Guarda.

    The Backups on the wings would be Atiba Harris, Avila, Chavez, Brek Shea and Andre Rocha(if he’s still here) and Levya.

  18. Right now wherever he could get playing time would be good for Adu, if he wants to make the world cup squad..

    Ps. It’s nice to see there are a lot of people that know the game and the U.S.A. players. commenting on the article

  19. Good point about Nowak. The conventional wisdom is that Nowak dislikes Adu and Philadelphia is the last place Adu will end up. However, maybe what Nowak really disliked when they clashed at D.C. was not Adu but having his lineup dictated to him by higher-ups.

  20. If I may a break from beating Osorio:

    Every place Freddy goes, he ends up on the bench. It’s hard to believe all these coaches are idiots.

    Logic indicates that Freddy is the problem.

    He may want to try a spell at Once Caldas. I hear they are looking for some players to play out of position.

  21. I know Mullen is aging, but Cameron is not a winger and is an ideal replacement for Clark. I’d pencil Corey Ashe there before Cameron.

  22. wow, copying and pasting did not work.








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