ARRIVAL in Los Angeles (page 40) may hog the attention this week, but a better
indicator of soccer's future in the U.S. may be taking place in Canada, where a
group of promising Yanks stunned Brazil 2--1 last week in the Under-20 World
Cup. The deserved victory marked the first time a U.S. men's team had beaten
Brazil in a FIFA world championship since 1989, and it heralded bright
prospects for several U.S. players, including New York Red Bulls striker Jozy
Altidore, 17, who scored both goals against Brazil; Michael Bradley, 19, a
midfielder for Holland's Heerenveen; and the captain, Real Salt Lake sniper
Freddy Adu (above).
breakout performance on the world stage to entice European scouts and quiet
skeptics who consider him a marketing creation, Adu, 18, was spectacular last
week. In a 6--1 victory against Poland he scored three gorgeous goals. Against
Brazil he was even better, creating the first goal with a defensive takeaway
and the second with a highlight-reel juggling move in the corner, splitting two
defenders before his shot landed on Altidore's foot for the game-winner.
"He's a very special player," Brazil coach Nelson Rodrigues said of
Adu, "with the kind of ability you see in South American players."
Why Adu hasn't
shown that transcendence on a regular basis in Major League Soccer is a good
question with myriad answers. But as the U.S. team entered the knockout rounds
of a major tournament that it had realistic hopes of winning, Adu's reemergence
is a reminder that nobody should be too quick to bury the careers of
prodigious-but-inconsistent talents such as Adu or Michelle Wie. In May the
respected CNBC sports-business analyst Darren Rovell wrote, "I want to be
the first—the first to call Freddy Adu a failure." One marvelous week in an
age-group tournament doesn't mean Adu has arrived, but it's far too soon for
the short-attention-span sports culture to label him a failure.