Most of you (and Rob) saw the headline and immediately wanted to laugh me off of DSS.
Before you do that, just hear me out.
Freddy Adu is the most disappointing American soccer player we, as a nation, have had the unfortunate pleasure of watching degenerate over the past 12 years. He was touted as the next Pelé, even staring in commercials with the world-renown soccer superstar. He was supposed to be the savior of MLS, the one that would lead the US men’s national team to prominence.
As you know, none of that happened. And he takes full responsibility for it.
In a recent interview with Ives Galarcep of Goal.com, Adu said:
"Everything that I’ve been through and everything that hurt my career, I brought it on myself because I didn’t dedicate enough time to it," Adu said. "You can say, ‘Oh, I had a lot too early,’ or say whatever you want. But at the end of the day we all need to grow up at some point, and that has just all hit me this off season. It really did."
- Freddy Adu; Source; Goal.com
He did have a lot too early. He was only 14 years old when he broke into the MLS. I remember watching that game and thinking how Adu could ever live a normal life. Oddly enough, I was the same age as the kid making his debut with DC United. That level of pressure and the expectations he had to exceed were very unfair at 14 years old. It takes a toll on a player both mentally and physically.
I'm not here to offer excuses for the way Adu's career has gone. It's been bad. However, reports out of Tampa Bay indicate his attitude and effort have drastically improved from what was rumored before his move to the NASL club. That could be a sign of things to come, or it could ultimately mean absolutely nothing.
Adu has also talked kindly about MLS:
"Looking at it now, to me MLS is one of the most respected leagues in the world right now. It’s leaps and bounds better than when I came into the league. NASL is leaps and bounds better than what I knew NASL to be before. I needed to start fresh and change everything, change all my habits and give everything to being a professional soccer player, and that’s what I’m doing right now."
- Freddy Adu; Source: Goal.com
Enter Atlanta United.
AUFC should seriously consider scouting and signing Freddy Adu under the right conditions. Assuming he's figured out how to become a professional soccer player, I see very little risk and a reward that would be the envy of every other team in MLS.
What would the worst-case scenario be if Atlanta United signed Freddy Adu? He signs a lower-end, incentive laden contract. He would have to prove he's worth keeping around for more than one year. He spends the inaugural Atlanta United season coming off the bench, ultimately proving unworthy of a MLS roster spot. Atlanta United cuts ties with Adu at the end of the season and Adu rides off into the depths of MLS obscurity forever. No harm for Atlanta United as Adu would cost them very little.
Now, consider the best-care scenario.
Atlanta United signs Freddy Adu to a lower-end, incentive laden contract. Adu would have to prove he belongs back in MLS and is worthy of a long-term contract. Freddy Adu surprises everyone in MLS and actually becomes a starter and regular contributor to the on-field success of the team. Atlanta United front office become the smartest people in the MLS room. Atlanta United coaching staff become the envy of the league and outsiders recognize that AUFC can develop talent. This scenario garners a reward that would affect the team long-term.
In either case, Atlanta United becomes the talk of the league the moment they sign Adu. While I'm not one of those guys that demands national media talk about my team, Atlanta United seems to be the last team on any MLS fan's mind. With LAFC and the new club coming to Miami in 2018, the international players that eventually end up in MLS will be more inclined to live in South Beach or Los Angeles, forcing Atlanta United to make their mark on the league another way. This could be that mark. Atlanta United could potentially succeed in reviving the career of one of the greatest disappointments in MLS history. If they fail, it won't cost AUFC much at all.
If Atlanta United fans are willing to accept a near-retirement player like John Terry, a reasonable supporter should see the potential upside of considering a player like Freddy Adu. He's 26, he's ready to be a professional soccer player and he's specifically looking to transition to MLS. I can GUARANTEE that at least one MLS team will give him a chance. Why not let that team be our team, so if he succeeds, we reap the benefits. Adu is the definition of a low risk, high reward player.
Remember what Freddy Adu was, and what he could potentially be in MLS...