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More from the Nashville Nightmare: Freddy Adu and his maddening inconsistency

Mar 27, 2012, 12:17 AM EST

Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu, the once-wunderkind, once-fallen, then-risen U.S. soccer prodigy, comes so tantalizingly close to fulfilling expectations.

After yet another humdrum half – also known as “the usual” for Adu in this tournament – he finally became the difference-maker everybody so badly wants him to be.

The U.S. under-23 captain finally made El Salvador and everyone around him take notice, finally managing an impact, one that very nearly drove his team into the Olympic qualifying semifinals. His two setups Monday, including a killer pass that put Terrence Boyd clean through, sparked the second half rally – although one ultimately undone by more shoddy U.S. defending and even worse goalkeeping.

The question then becomes: why are these moments so few and far between? Because with a little more of the bright stuff we saw for 30 minutes Monday, perhaps the U.S. wouldn’t have been in position to lose the whole shebang on a lost-second goalkeeper’s bobble.

As the captain and most experienced man, couldn’t he have cranked things up earlier?

Adu’s erratic body of work in this tournament will be among the lasting talking points. That’s similar to his memorable, up-and-down summer of 2011, punctuated by a big night against Mexico, when Adu was plucked from the bench and, against all odds, roundly praised as the best U.S. man in an otherwise forgettable Gold Cup final U.S. loss.

Adu’s history is starting to stack up with such aching, frustrating inconsistency.

Just like the last five days, for instance. In the end, Adu played 30 respectable minutes out of 270 in Nashville. For about 30 minutes Monday he became a leader of young men and a playmaker, arranging those two U.S. goals and lifting his side with spunky feet, ideas and energy.

Good on him for that – but where was more of the same over the other five-plus halves? Because the rest of the time was a disappointing mish-mash of meek work along the U.S. right side, poor decisions and an inability to seize the initiative when he did find the ball near goal.

Perhaps it wasn’t all Adu’s fault. It seemed like a mistake to play him out wide right – especially since central attacker Joe Corona disappeared after his three goals against Cuba’s stationary defense.

Out wide, Adu never stretched the field on that side; he was clearly more comfortable coming inside, and too predictably so. When he did occasionally push to the outside the result was usually a poor cross.

Adu failed most memorably in two moments that mattered just before the break Monday, instances inside the penalty area that called for decisive, early action. Instead, Adu made of mess of both, squandering a pair of juicy chances at equalizers.

  1. whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Adu played incredibly the whole tournament and was a hero this match in particular. This article is absolutely ridiculous.

    • helpmecruyff - Mar 27, 2012 at 7:02 PM

      Anyone who listened and read Steve Davis at SI.com will not be surprised. If you want the tactically narrow minded conventional wisdom that has made US soccer the juggernaut it is, NBC has hired the right guy.

  2. footballer4ever - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    Oh please, Adu has been and will continue to be a “promise” which won’t become true. If it ever happens, it wont last long either. Having said that, spurts of greatness does not make a successful career.

  3. whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    Clearly you didn’t watch this tournament Bitter and depressed people looking for a scapegoat and choosing our best performer because of his “history.” A goal and 2 assists in 3 games is “withering” now? Along with making perfect passes all tournament. Seriously what a ridiculous article, go read the match ratings for every game, Adu is consistently rated our best player.

  4. whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Actually it’s a goal and 3 assists in 3 games

  5. footballer4ever - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    @ whysalty- every footballer needs a whiteknight like you. I applaud you for your loyalty and seeing him thru pink rosey sunglasses. Bravo!

  6. whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    Lol, yeah, me, my rosey glasses and the match ratings of every soccer blog not named “prosoccertalk”

  7. zava55 - Mar 27, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    Okay, I know NBC will be home to US Soccer and MLS so I spent time today reading three articles on the US failing to qualify to the Olympics, so i got to say……

    Who are you Steve Davis? Maybe a bit too over sarcastic and stirring emotions trying to draw readers to NBC Sports. But I got to say this writing is horrible and of little substance. No quotes from interviews by players or coaches. It’s just crap pulled out of his ass.

    Dear NBC Sports. For soccer, you might be better off going to your sister network Telemundo and using google translate to post articles about this tournament or even better, how about maybe hire some better writers to cover soccer. You know how many US and MLS soccer fans are excited about NBC Sports Network. Please don’t disappoint with this garbage.

    • helpmecruyff - Mar 27, 2012 at 7:29 PM

      Davis is a columnist, not a reporter and besides, who cares what the players and coach have to say? I can’t stand Davis’s whole view of the game but I’d rather read him then inane quotes and cliches. Far more annoying is the play by play on Universal. I know it’s tough but they combined the limited knowledge with next to no on air charisma that seems to be the way of American announcers. As much as it annoys me that anyone with a Brit accent can seemingly walk on to a telecast, our guys don’t exactly make the case for themselves.

  8. arjanroghanchi - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    @zava55 this piece is commentary, not reportage. It is supposed to be entertaining and interesting to read, not a jumble of quotes from players and quotes.

    learn the difference.

  9. dohpey28 - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    This tournament failure falls on the defense and goaltending. Just like the ‘big squad’ this team has no real talent on defense.

    Adu was one of the few reasons this team was even competitive.

  10. vote4dirk - Mar 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Was the purpose of this article to get users to sign up on this site just to comment on the article? Because if so then congratulations, you got me. You could not be more wrong with what you are saying. Adu was the player on the tournament for the US and one of two bright spots from the week (Boyd). Now go ahead and comment back on this with a made up user name like you have to everyone else calling you wrong but It won’t change my mind one bit. I’ve enjoyed your work in the past but this is awful work and just flat out false.

  11. drchale - Mar 27, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Steve, I agree with your assessment of Adu for the most part. I don’t know why he wasn’t deployed centrally, it seems like that’s his most comfortable position (as seen in USA-MEX at the Gold Cup).

    When Adu was out wide he couldn’t deliver a cross to save his life, and for some reason was hesitant to put the ball on his right foot. When he cut in to the middle, he was much more effective. Adu needed to be moved to the middle right behind Boyd.

    • vote4dirk - Mar 27, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      Couldnt complete a cross to save his life. Oh, except for his assist on Coronas header. But that one doesn’t count.

  12. drchale - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    It counted, sure. But like most of Adu’s crosses from that part of the field, it too was dreadfully low and required a deflection off an ES player’s back to find Corona’s head.

    That being said, I’m not knocking the guy. He’s better playing centrally. Porter is more to blame for Adu’s ineffectiveness for most of the tournament (save the last 25 minutes or so) by putting him in a position to fail.

    • helpmecruyff - Mar 27, 2012 at 7:12 PM

      Adu is not a top class player and while he has talent, his tendency to hang on to the ball and take the extra touches is seemingly never going away. His crossing is poor but he’s hardly unique in that. What can’t be denied is that he the rare US player who can pull something special out of the hat, one footed or not. He should play in the middle where he can at least hold the ball a bit but standard American tactics are that flair players should play wide. The while approach needs to change but as we can see, it’s not easy to change the inertia of the semi pro era.

    • whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      Adu was sending in 50 yard pinpoint crosses all tournament, along with two perfect crosses which created the U.S. goals in the last match. To say Adu is a poor crosser is absolute madness.

    • whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:35 PM

      You’re claiming this cross is low? There was no deflection and it wasn’t low (not that there’s anything wrong with a low cross) People are actually inventing lies in order to badmouth this player, it’s amazing.

      • whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:43 PM

        There may have been a deflection actually, hard to tell, but it’s not crazy to think there was, but to claim Adu’s crosses were poor is utterly and absolutely insane. From my experience, there’s a segment of the US National team fanbase which feels they can appear appear more knowledgeable if they badmouth our best performers for what they consider deficiencies, which absolutely are not. It was the same for Donovan until, of course, he succeeded in Europe with Everton, and then the barage of inane claims that he sucked ceased.

  13. waltersobchak99 - Mar 27, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Freddy Adu is a 22 year old kid who just experienced one of the most difficult defeats of his life. To post a picture of him crying along with a heartless, mean-spirited article the very next day is beyond the pale. Steve Davis is a f***** amateur. Freddy Adu is a brilliant player. Let’s see who has the more successful career…

    • whysalty - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:35 PM

      Some of these people are absolutely insane.

  14. schmutzdeck - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Mr. salty,

    I see Adu has not lost his ability to polarize. Davis’ take on the situation was substantially correct. Adu may have been the US’ best player but that is not saying much. Cuba were awful and short handed, the less said about any US player against Canada the better and the El Salvador game was an inconsistent mish mash.

    Adu was the captain for all three of these games and while I’m sure he gave it his all, his inability to lead his team to better is not a good thing. This “best amongst a sea of crap” thing can only excuse you for so long. Freddy is capable of being brillliant but not on a consistent basis and that has been shown to be the case.

    Part of the problem is, for whatever reason, he has not been able to keep a consistently, regular starting gig with any club for a long time now. In short (pun intended) the man simply does not play enough games. His inconsistent performance when we all know he is capable of better tells you that. At 22 he has time to get consistent at Philly and improve and I hope he does.

    But I doubt the fact that his supporters constantly make excuses for him helps him much.

    • joeyt360 - Apr 2, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Yeah, Davis may be right or wrong, but he’s hardly the only guy saying Freddy had one good half out of six. And this ‘we’ve got to protect him’ paternalism (The ‘you’re what’s holding American soccer back’? The you’re ‘a big meanie’ defense? Seriously?!?!?) has gotten to the point of just being patronizing.

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