Freddy Adu has departed MLS to Portugal’s Benfica for $2 million, but we can’t let the former 14-year-old sensation leave without a final bad pun and a Southern California send-off.
After all, Adu was first paraded at Carson’s Home Depot Center before MLS Cup 2003 upon signing a $500,000 contract that made him the league’s biggest wage-earner. His entrance was a media event without equal until David Beckham joined earlier this year.
During his first season with D.C. United, the team’s attendance rose 11 percent, second only to the Galaxy, road attendances jumped 54 percent (making him the league’s top box office draw) and network television ratings leaped 27 percent.
On the field, he first played at the HDC before a capacity crowd in April 2004, scored his first goal in his third game and a month later scored his second against the Galaxy, leaving sprawling defenders in his wake before curling a shot into the net. At MLS Cup 2004, Adu was back in Carson coming off the bench in a D.C. United win over the Kansas City Wizards.
But despite occasional flashes of skill, Adu had his ups and downs.
His form was erratic, he wasn’t a regular in the starting line-up, he sulked, he was benched.
In January 2005, he led the U.S. into what was then called the FIFA World Youth Championship at qualifying games held at the HDC, finishing the run with four successful penalty kicks in five games.
But in December 2006, United traded him after 87 regular season games, 59 starts and 11 goals to Real Salt Lake.
Adu said all the right things when he moved, but it was clear he was already looking forward to playing in Europe, not MLS.
In his last appearance at the HDC on June 17 against the Galaxy, Adu came off the bench, the first time he hadn’t started for Real Salt Lake all season.
Several sparkling displays at the U-20 World Cup in Canada this summer earned him the move.
Although Benfica is no longer the European powerhouse it was in the 1960s during Eusebio’s heyday, it’s still an appropriate move for Adu, Galaxy coach Frank Yallop observed earlier this week.
Not the most physical league in the world, the style of play should suit the 5′ 8″, 145 pound Adu while he matures physically, mentally and tactically.
Adu leaves MLS with largely unfulfilled potential, but at age 18 is far from the failure one alleged commentator made him out to be.
Farewell, Freddy, we’ll see you again in Southern California.