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Freddy's Ready
Grant Wahl
July 16, 2007
DAVID BECKHAM'S 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).
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July 16, 2007

Freddy's Ready

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DAVID BECKHAM'S 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).

Needing a 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.

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