Profile: Freddy Adu
By Michael Lewis
Remember Freddy Adu?
When he was 14 years old in 2003, he signed a multi-year contract with Major League Soccer at $500,000 a year and wound up playing with D.C. United.
He was supposed to be the next Pelé, the savior of the league, thanks to the hype from the league and media.
It hasn't turned out that way.
He is far from a savior and is more of an ordinary player with Real Salt Lake at 18.
"How do you get to the point where people start to compare you to Pelé?" Adu said recently. "I didn't want anybody comparing me to Pelé. I had no control over that. People are going to say what they're going to say.”
"When you don't meet Pelé's expectations, people are going to start calling you a failure. It makes me laugh. Everyone's got their own expectations and everyone knows what they want to do and what they want to get, as far as their career goals."
Since turning 18 on June 2, Adu is allowed to sign with a European club.
"The plan is to go to Europe as soon as possible," he said. "Obviously, there are going to be offers made. I'm going to put myself in the right situation. I still have a contract with MLS. We'll see. It all depends on MLS and whether they will let me go or not. I'm sure we can work things out when the time comes."
If he goes to Europe, Adu realized he will be on his own in a new environment. So, his Salt Lake experience is in many ways a test.
"I'm here because of my career," he said. "I didn't come here because I have wanted to have a great life and enjoy life. I really want to be the best at what I can do. And I'm going to be the best player I possibly can."
"You make sacrifices being away from your family and closest friends. Coming to a different place . . . and culture, that's fine for me. It's good mental preparation before I make a decision to go to Europe because when you go to Europe you're not going to have anyone around. It's going to be a different culture. You can prepare yourself in every which way you like."
Adu is poised to play in his third Under-20 World Cup for the U.S. in Canada. It kicks off Saturday.
"I just want to make the most of my chance," he said. "This is my third World Cup and I'm just going to try to use the experience I have from the previous two and bring it to this team and hopefully we can go a long way."
He had a promising tournament as a 14-year-old in 2003, but was a major disappointment in 2005.
"I was going through a lot of distractions," he said. "The D.C. thing, I was not having the best relationship at that time with my coach. I was dealing with a lot."
Not surprisingly, Adu's confidence suffered.
"My confidence wasn't where it was supposed to be for the tournament. Even that said," he remarked, pausing for a laugh. "I set up a lot of passes, I drew two penalties."
"You know what? I could have done better. I was dealing with a lot of distractions. It affected my play, really."
"I had to change my game so much. I mean when you go from being the guy in the middle of the park, the second forward, attacking midfielder, you have to play outside mid in a 3-5-2, you've got to change your game. Psychologically you can take so much."
"It took a while to get it back. I've spent the last year trying to get that back. I'm finally at the point where my confidence level is where I need it to be."