This photo of me shaking hands with Freddy Adu was taken in 2004 when the Ghana-born soccer prodigy was only 14-years-old. Freddy had just signed a contract with the Washington-based D.C. United club, making him the youngest player in Major League Soccer history.
During our interview at RFK Stadium here in Washington, the young teenager impressed me with his poise and maturity in front of a phalanx of cameras and microphones from various U.S. and international media outlets. But Freddy Adu still had a lot of growing up to do, both on and off the pitch.
After beginning his professional career in MLS, Adu moved to Europe in 2007, when he was signed by Benfica. The Portuguese side has since loaned him to clubs based in Monaco, Greece and Turkey, where Adu currently plays regularly for a second-division team (Rizespor).
During some of his European stops, Adu played only sporadically, sometimes coming on as a substitute. His recent performances in Turkey impressed U.S. national team Coach Bob Bradley, who named Freddy to his 23-man roster for a June 4 friendly against World Cup champion Spain and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a championship tournament for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean. “We respect the fact that he made this move to go to a smaller club (in Turkey),” says Bradley, “because he had to show people he had to do whatever to keep going. We’re looking forward to seeing how he’s handling things, a maturity, a way that tells us that his experiences along the way have been measured and now he understands all of it needs to come together to move along.”
This is the first time Freddy Adu will be wearing the red, white and blue of the U.S. national soccer team in two years. Freddy was hoping to wear the American colors at last year’s World Cup in South Africa, but Coach Bradley felt he had not matured enough at the international level, and did not include him on his team. Like Coach Bradley, I’m also looking forward to seeing how Adu handles things when facing top international competition. If he can successfully show his growth and maturity as a footballer, Adu might get the chance to wear the red, white and blue at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.