Of all the stories to emerge from the weekend’s sports news, the most intriguing to me came from the Rose Bowl Saturday night.
That is where the U.S. blew an early two-goal lead and lost to Mexico, 4-2, in the final of the Gold Cup.
That is also where the career of a former soccer wunderkind named Freddy Adu was resurrected.
I follow the beautiful game closer than most Americans, but I didn’t even know that Adu was still on the radar, let alone the roster, of the U.S. national team.
Coming up with the equivalent from another sport is tough - the only comparisons I can think of are Shaun Livingston and Rick Ankiel.
While Livingston’s budding stardom in the NBA was undone by horrific knee injuries and Ankiel’s in major league baseball by his inability to throw anywhere near home plate, Adu seemed to be the victim of hype.
Was it Freddy’s fault that, at age 12 (or 14, depending on whether several media reports about his age being fudged when he came over from Nigeria) he was being called the next Pele?
Was it his fault that , at age 14 (or 16) the D.C. United signed him to a $100,000 contract and that he was suddenly a corporate pitchman making several times that in endorsements?
Adu’s disappointing tenure with the United was only the beginning of a freefall that found him eventually playing in Europe’s minor leagues and basically washed up. He had become Freddy Adieu.
But now, seemingly out of nowhere, he’s back. Not only did he play most of Saturday’s game, but he helped the U.S. take its early lead by setting up the first two goals. He had done the same in an earlier 1-0 win over Panama.
It will be interesting to see what happens from here: what, if any, offers his performance against Mexico generates; the role he is now asked to play as the U.S. prepares for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Three years is a long time in any sport, but especially in soccer, where injuries come into play and where the fate of one coach - in this case Bob Bradley - can affect the future of a particular player.
Here’s hoping that Adu continues to grow into his role with the American team and that, when the World Cup commences in Pele’s native land, a player once billed as “the next Pele” is finally living up to some of those expectations.