By MATTHEW LEVINE
Escaping the soccer wilderness isn’t such an easy task. Freddy Adu, who has currently been without a contract since November 2013, can tell you all about that.
Adu’s story has been told numerous times. At just 14-years-old, the once-promising young player was given way too much, way too early, with expectations that seemed near impossible to meet. That combination has seen him continuously fall short of football glory, most recently bouncing about Europe from trial to trial — with no end in sight.
While the credits haven’t completely rolled on Adu’s career, the time is seemingly drawing near. International options are closing all around him. National Team glory is a mere dream for the man once thought to be at the center of America’s soccer future.
Now is the time for a change, and one club can fit many of his needs at this stage of his career; the New York Cosmos.
Life hasn’t been easy for Adu. The 25-year-old trained with Blackpool of the English Championship earlier this year and then failed trials at both Bob Bradley‘s Stabæk and with Eredvisie side AZ Alkmaar. Both presented unique opportunities for Adu to resurrect his career. Staeback’s Bob Bradley is an American coach who took a chance on fellow American Michael Stephens and has reaped those benefits. Alkmaar helped Jozy Altidore find his scoring touch and fellow American Aron Johannsson has done the same at the Dutch club.
Despite those advantages, neither panned out.
Now Adu is presented with some difficult questions. Should the chase for a contract continue in Europe or elsewhere? Is there a place for him in Major League Soccer? Or should he link up with a North American Soccer League squad?
Before making his next decision, Adu should put in a phone call to former Olympic teammate Danny Szetela. The current New York Cosmos midfielder knows about coming back from the brink of a lost career. He also knows just how patient the Cosmos are with promising talents.
Szetela struggled with knee injuries, even going so far as undergoing surgery to have a cadaver knee implanted to continue his career. After three-plus seasons outside of the professional game, he was given a chance by the Cosmos to return on the professional level. The then 26-year-old came out of second chance saloon for the better and has always been grateful to the New York club for it.
The New Jersey native is just one of many similar rehabilitation stories from the NASL champions. Not only did they take a patient approach to Szetela’s struggles, but they also waited half a season for Jemal Johnson to nurse himself to health. They continue to show patience with injured forward Hans Denissen as well, even though he has yet to make a single first team start for the club.
Adu would be wise to follow in Szetela’s footsteps. While the attacking midfielder has had a globe-trotting career, with two stints in MLS, coming back to the States and playing in NASL may be just what Adu needs.
Some may view the NASL as a step down, but for Adu, it’s a step up simply because of the playing time. However, the NASL can also offer Adu the chance to join a brand that rivals his own. With the Cosmos, it would be a perfect marriage. Adu needs a club to offer him minutes and the Cosmos need a player that can help stop the waning attendance figures at Shuart Stadium and offer a creative presence in the absence of Marcos Senna.
Whether or not Adu can still flash the same brilliance he did at earlier times in his career, having him — at the right price — is a risk both parties could benefit from taking.
Szetela resurrected his career in the NASL and with the Cosmos. That chance has forged a close bond with the New Jersey native and the club. With offers rolling in from MLS this offseason, Szetela chose to remain with the Cosmos.
Adu, who was once a target of the Cosmos, possibly saw that deal scuppered due to financials. However, it’s time for a touch of hard work and a slice of humble pie for the once-wunderkind to return to action. Division two or not, an Adu/Cosmos union would bring together two of the most recognizable soccer brands in America and draw eyes towards the wayward son of U.S. Soccer.
Both need a boost. Both can benefit from each other. No other sub-first division side in the World would draw more attention to the player’s progress, either domestically or internationally, than the Cosmos. Plus, there are minutes to be had in a competitive environment.
What’s to lose?
The time to make a move is now. The opportunity is there — even as other doors close all around him. Let’s face it; before Adu can realize it, the screen to his fairytale movie will fade to black with a sad ending for a career that promised so much more.
It doesn’t have to be that way.