Even US manager Bob Bradley thought he was the biggest surprise on his CONCACAF Gold Cup roster: former MLS star Freddy Adu, who last played for the US national team in July of 2009.
“Yeah, probably,” Bradley admitted on a media teleconference call on Monday just minutes after his selections were made public. “Because Freddy had fallen out of the team a little bit. And typically playing in the second division in Turkey doesn’t bring you back into the team.
“That, probably for a lot of people, is a surprise.”
It’s proven to be a rough go in Europe for the former US youth national team star, who signed on with D.C. United as a 14-year-old in 2004. He moved from Real Salt Lake to Portuguese power Benfica in 2007, but failed to gain a regular spot in the legendary European squad.
Several loan stints followed to clubs in France, Greece and, now, Turkey. He has seemingly found a home with second-division club Rizespor, who are currently in the hunt for promotion in the Turkish Süper Lig. Rizespor dropped a 4-0 result to Orduspor, making a comeback in Thursday’s second leg highly unlikely. Adu played 68 minutes.
“We’ve watched him a number of different times on the computer,” Bradley said. “We‘ve watched one of his playoff games this morning. … We feel there are good signs.
“Freddy is a player that in the past has shown us soccer qualities that we think would help our team. It hasn’t always added up enough yet with the full national team. This seems like it’s a good opportunity to get him back in with us where we have a good month together to challenge him and hope he has continued to grow and mature and can play a bigger role with the national team.”
When pressed about what specifically convinced him that it was now time for Adu to be given another opportunity, Bradley struggled to point to one aspect.
“It’s an opportunity that has been earned based on the fact that he’s shown talent in the past, and earned by the fact that now when we look at all the different possibilities in this roster, we felt it’d be a good time to bring him back in and challenge him.
“It’s not that we’ve seen anything specific playing for his new club that shows that now he’s made progress,” Bradley said. “It’s a package. He’s a player that certainly we all know at different times has shown some soccer abilities that are special. He hasn’t always been able to make them count in different situations at different levels. But we respect the fact that he made this move to go to a smaller club because he had to show people that he was willing to do whatever to keep going.”
Adu’s last appearance for the USA came back at the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He started two matches, scoring one of the goals in a 4-0 blanking of Grenada.
“We never thought the story was over,” Bradley said about Adu’s national team career. “The fact that now we think this is a chance to size it all up again doesn’t mean automatically that it’s all there either. There are challenges for Freddy to show the good things he’s done at times at some of the youth levels that they can really make a difference for the senior national team or for a top club.”