Before David Beckham rode in wearing only his underpants to rescue American soccer, a 14-year-old named Freddy Adu threatened to become the game’s biggest superstar Stateside. The MLS’ youngest ever player seemed destined for the top but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Now he’s fighting for a contract with English Championship club Blackpool.
Adu was only a teenager when he made his début for DC United back in 2004. The then 14-year-old became the league’s youngest player and a poster-boy for the sport in America. Even the great Pelé sang the youngster’s praises but relatively unsuccessful stints at Benfica, Monaco, and Philadelphia Union meant Adu hasn’t quite lived up to the hype.
Last March he left MLS again to sign for Brazilian outfit Bahia but made just four league appearances and was released at the end of 2013 with club officials citing his “technical deficiencies.”
Adu was born in Ghana and lived there until he was eight-years-old when his family moved to Maryland. His soccer prowess was quickly noticed and he was soon pitched in against boys in older age groups. His ability saw him enrolled in the US Olympic development and then US Soccer’s academy programmes.
Adu was selected by DC United to much fanfare in the 2004 MLS Superdraft. On April 3 of the same year he became the youngest player to appear in a league game when he came on as a substitute in the clash with the San Jose Earthquakes. Two weeks later, he became the league’s youngest scorer, netting in a 3–2 defeat to the MetroStars. The same season he was an MLS Cup winner with DC and was selected on the MLS All-Star team in his début year, and again in 2006.
Adu played under-age soccer for the US national team and captained the U-20s in the 2007 World Cup. He was called up to the senior squad by Bruce Arena in January 2006 for a friendly match against Canada. Adu’s substitute appearance in the game saw him become the youngest player to début with the U.S. national side. The player once dubbed ‘the next Pelé’ played 17 times for the USA scoring twice but hasn’t featured since 2011.
He’s currently training with Championship side Blackpool with a view to securing a contract. While the attacker may not have met the lofty expectations heaped on his 14-year-old shoulders, Adu may yet get a second shot at stardom. He’s still aged just 24.
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