Author’s editorial disclaimer: It’s always been said that two wrongs don’t make a right; but three rights make a left. I know this article may seem weird, out of place, and completely out of right field (you were expecting left field, weren’t you?); but please trust me on this and hear me through.
Every single off-season I always think, where can the Fire pick up a relatively young guy with lots of international experience, not too pricey, and won’t take up an international slot? And every single off-season I can only really come up with one name: Freddy Adu.
Yes, the man who was selected straight out of 8th grade onto DC United. The man who would go on to be a star in every single MLS commercial until he finally moved to Benfica. The man who would bounce around Europe, getting injured at every turn, until he was finally degraded to turning out for a 4th-tier Finnish team.
The main reason I’m writing this now is because he was recently brought in on trial with the Portland Timbers - and left, again, without a contract offer. But why am I writing about it here? Because I believe that he would be the perfect fit for us. But before I give actual reasoning, let’s recap his career very quickly so we can frame him a bit better:
A Cautionary Tale: The Life of Adu
As previously stated, Adu was drafted #1 overall in the 2004 Draft by DC United. He was still the best thing since sliced rye while he was there. Over three seasons, Adu went worked his way into a full-time starting role, scoring 11 and tallying 17 assists, including two goals and 8 assists as a full-time starter for the ‘06 United led by Cristian Gomez and Jaime Moreno.
After a coaching change, Adu was sent to Real Salt Lake and subsequently sold to Benfica. That was the beginning of the end for this man. Freddy would only make 11 appearances over three-plus seasons for the Portuguese club and was loaned out almost constantly. First to Monaco with an option to buy (declined, of course). Then to Beleneses, where he made his first start in Portugal, only to get a major injury that same game. Then to Aris in Greece and Çaykur Rizespor in Turkey. Finally, Benfica had had enough and decided to ditch him.
In 2011, Piotr Nowak decided to bring him back to MLS with his new team, the Philadelphia Union. In his two seasons back in town Adu only managed only 7 goals and 2 assists. Once again, the moment Nowak left was the moment the team realized they didn’t want Freddy. So of he went to Bahia in Brazil, where he played in a total of two games. After being released there he tried to get signed by teams like Blackpool, Stabaek, and AZ Alkmaar. He finally ended up on Serbian side FK Jagodina, where he made a single 45 minute appearance in a Serbian Cup match. His travels then sent him to the reserves squad of a Finnish team, playing in their fourth division. The story to date ends with a short gig with the Tampa Bay Rowdies this past year.
Now to look at the other side of this story:
A Sad Tale: The Fall of Chicago
Just kidding, we won’t go there again. We know all that stuff far too well. But that leads us to this:
Fire + Adu = Profit(?)
Now here’s where I try to sell this to you. There’s a couple of ways to spin this, but I’ll take the logical route first (I apologize to fans of pathos, but logos comes first).
According to most fans, the Fire’s biggest needs are a competent right back, an enganche at the 10 spot, and right mid who can deliver a solid cross. According to two different completely scientific data points, I think he can possibly fill two of those three positions, maybe even all three.
According to the earliest available database for a FIFA game, FIFA 2005 (also the best, come at me), our man is still just a boy at age 15; but the position they place him in is CAM/CF. Those who actually watched him play may disagree, but this is still a solid representation of his skill. In his last appearance in FIFA 13, he’s already been demoted to Bahia’s reserves, but his positioning has changed to more of a winger, specifically a left “winger” and a right “midfielder”. Apparently they put a difference between “midfielder” and “winger”, but that’s FIFA for you.
So why did I just take a trip down video game memory lane? To show you that Adu can totally cover that RW spot just as well as anyone else on the team right now and he has experience playing in the middle of the park. Now you may be wondering why I think can he play right back. There’s a solid reasoning. Take legendary Fire product DaMarcus Beasley as an example. He started his career as a LW, but slowly slid back the field to where he is now, at LB. Same with the not as legendary Brek Shea, who started as a LM, but is now sitting happily at LB. As a winger gets older, they may slow down but they learn how to defend better. And while Adu is still just 27, he’s fairly old in the soccer world. I think that he can relearn that position in style.
Now is where I appeal to your heart, because look at this wreck of a man. He’s been laughed out of the national team. He was named “The Next Pele” only to end up playing in front of a crowd smaller than some of my classes at school. He came up to be great only to ever have one person believe in him, Piotr Nowak. And you know what, as a Fire fan I still kind of trust Nowak’s judgement. He gave Adu a second chance at MLS stardom. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well for either of them, but my point is that I think that if he tries another comeback in MLS and Nowak isn’t here to help, the Fire should take up that mantle.
And then there’s the point of him getting another chance after he’s wasted two already. Well, I’ll let him speak for himself:
“I’ve looked back on these past few years and I’ve wasted a lot of time, wasted years of my career, just not dedicating the time I should have to the sport ... That’s time wasted. Lucky for me, I started so early that time wasted doesn’t mean I’m 33 or 34 and it’s too late for me. I’m only 26 and I can change and correct the things I’ve done wrong, and that’s what I’m focused on right now … At the end of the day, you have to take some responsibility for yourself. You have to put yourself in the best situation to succeed, on the field or off the field, and at that time I wasn’t performing great on the field or off the field.”
- Freddy Adu
He knows what he’s done wrong and he is ready to fix it. This is a case for second chances on both ends as the Fire have had very major issues these past few years as well. We also have a pretty low risk as well. If we sign Adu and he doesn’t do well, It’s just another bad signing from a bad team. But if we sign him and he turns up for the first time since Toyota Park was built, it’s a comeback story for the ages.
And that’s the basics of it. While signing a big name would bring in some average fans, a great story can be made if we sign “The Man Who Would Be King”, Freddy Adu. If soccer is entertainment and if soccer is an art, then it is Nelson Rodriguez’s artistic duty to get a deal done to bring “The American Pele” to Chicago. Adu’s trial ran up just a week or so ago so we seem to have the path cleared for this.