Love him or hate him, you have to give Freddy Adu credit: he's becoming relevant again.
At first he was U.S. soccer's savior, tabbed by some the first big U.S. soccer star. Some even said he was comparable to Pele.
He showed flashes of brilliance (his memorable play during the 2007 U-20 World Cup stands out) but in most cases, his experience has been one of frustration, both for him professionally and for fans pinning their hopes on him to succeed.
He was mostly tepid in MLS, going from being benched at DC United to playing on a mediocre level at Real Salt Lake before he gained a move to the Portuguese league with Benfica.
After languishing on the bench there, he was loaned out to various clubs in France and Portugal, but he found similar situations on loan, struggling to get minutes anywhere.
At the tender age of 20, many had already written him off as a massive disappointment, a player who could never reach his potential—or match the hype and praise placed to him so early in his career. Perhaps the expectations were both unreasonable and too high, and Adu himself fell victim to living off his own reputation for a while.
However, with his latest loan move to Aris Salonika in the Greek Super League, it appears that he has finally found his mojo and is living up to some of his promise as a player. It now seems that everything is coming together for the young footballer.
He is joined on the squad by Eddie Johnson, another American on loan to the Greek side, and it seems as if having the striker around is helping Adu adjust to life and football in Greece.
Adu has cracked the starting lineup in the last two games for Aris, scoring a goal in each of those games. Not only has he been starting and scoring, but he seems to have a fire in his belly not seen in some time, playing with purpose and intensity.
Many of his detractors have had issues with his apparent lack of interest in working hard and playing defense. But he's committed himself to setting himself up not only on offensive side of the ball, but getting stuck in on defense.
So why the sudden change?
He may be feeling (as many U.S. fans do) that this could be his last chance on loan to resurrect his flagging career.
He could be looking at the calendar and realizes that his opportunity to get on the plane to South Africa with the U.S. team in June is fading away.
Whatever it is, it appears the stars are aligning for Adu at Aris, and he's playing with purpose, getting minutes and scoring, and quietly putting himself back in the national team picture.
Given the rash of injuries currently plaguing the U.S. National Team, Adu has a tremendous opportunity to get himself on Bob Bradley's radar ahead of May, when the U.S. coach will make his selections for the World Cup.
Adu is getting the chance to play and he's making the most of it. Perhaps that was all he needed to begin playing like the Freddy Adu we all thought he might become.
Will he actually fulfill his potential? Consistency is key and only time will tell.
But if he keeps playing and scoring, Bradley will have a very hard time keeping him off that plane in June.
For someone that's been written off by many, Adu may just have a comeback left in him. And that may be a huge boost for his career and the U.S team's chances in the 2010 World Cup.
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