Freddy Adu had faded from the American soccer scene, a one-time prodigy who was failing to fulfill his vast promise while bouncing between clubs across Europe. But over the past four months, while playing for a second-division team in a Turkish provincial capital nestled along a bay on the Black Sea, Adu re-emerged.
On Monday, the former D.C. United midfielder-forward was rewarded for his progress — and remembered for his potential — by being named to the U.S. national team. The Americans will play World Cup champion Spain in a June 4 friendly in Foxborough, Mass., before entering the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the 12-nation championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
“It seems like it’s a good opportunity to get him back in with us, where we have a good month together, challenge him and hope that he has continued to grow and mature, and can play a bigger role with the national team,” U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said of Adu, an immigrant from Ghana who grew up in Montgomery County, and amid global fanfare, signed with MLS at age 14.
“It’s an opportunity that has been earned,” Bradley added.
Adu, who turns 22 next week, was among six players with Washington ties to make the 23-man roster. He joined defenders Oguchi Onyewu (Olney) and Clarence Goodson (Springfield), former University of Maryland midfielders Maurice Edu and Robbie Rogers, and ex-United goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Adu’s inclusion was the biggest surprise. He hadn’t received a U.S. call-up since the 2009 Gold Cup, and despite making progress this year with Turkish club Rizespor, most observers pegged him in the second tier of U.S. candidates.
However, Bradley and his coaching staff have been watching Adu’s matches online— they weren’t able to see him in person — and came away impressed enough to consider him for selection.
“It’s not that we’ve seen anything specific playing for his new club that shows how he has improved; it’s a package of things,” Bradley said. “We certainly know that at different times he has shown some abilities that are special. He hasn’t always been able to make them count in different situations at different levels.”
In the past, Adu’s attitude and work ethic were called into question, but the move to Rizespor seemed to ground him. His play, albeit in a modest league, has also attracted attention: four goals and multiple assists in 11 appearances.
Rizespor, which is in the city of Rize in northeast Turkey, finished third in the regular season, gaining a place in a playoff for promotion to the prestigious first division. To advance to the final stage, the club will need to win by at least four goals Thursday after losing at Orduspor, 4-0, in Monday’s first leg.
“For Freddy, he made a very conscious decision to go somewhere he would play and have everything be about Freddy the soccer player and nothing else,” said Richard Motzkin, Adu’s agent.
Added Bradley: “We respect the fact that he made this move to go to a smaller club because he had to show people he had to do whatever to keep going. We’re looking forward to seeing how he’s handling things, a maturity, a way that tells us that his experiences along the way have been measured and now he understands all of it needs to come together to move along.”
The U.S. roster also includes World Cup veterans Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. Training camp opens this week in Cary, N.C.
As expected, United forward Charlie Davies (six goals) was not selected. Seeking to return to the national team for the first time since a 2009 car accident, Davies has yet to regain his international form and is also sidelined with a strained hamstring.