KENYA BROWN - Friday, March 21, 2014
American soccer fans were greeted by a welcome, if not anticipated as of late, surprise earlier this week.
The announcement of Bayern Munich forward Julian Green's decision to suit up for the United States national team over Germany on Tuesday has been warmly welcomed by many soccer fans across the country.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has talked highly of the Florida native, and if he can develop into the player that he is expected to be in next several years, this will go down as one of the biggest coups the USSF has made since its establishment.
While the move is great for U.S. soccer, realism also has to kick in. At only 18 years old, Green cannot be looked at as the "savior" or the "next big thing" for soccer in America. Sports in general has had too many young athletes who had the potential to be great, but the pressure brought by the media, the public and their respective teams was too much and that led to them either bouncing around to different teams or leaving the game all together.
One of those athletes is still struggling to find his place in the soccer world.
Ten years ago, 14-year-old Freddy Adu would make history by becoming the youngest player to sign a contract with Major League Soccer after he was selected by DC United in the 2004 SuperDraft. In the eyes of MLS a star was on the rise, one who could possibly make soccer a top sport in the United States. Even before he signed his first contract or set foot on a field for his first professional game the Ghana-born Adu had signed various endorsement deals and was on the cover of many magazines. It is not really what a budding young player should go through until they have earned their stripes on the field, but the media was in love with the kid.
However, it all started to fall apart for Adu when he started to complain about playing time Stateside and talk of his desire to play in Europe. There was no choice but to ship the the teen off to Portugal where he signed with Benfica. After several loans that only saw him play a handful of games, he was released by the Lisbon team and made his return to MLS and the Philadelphia Union in hopes of reestablishing himself.
However, Adu would wear out his welcome there and he would next move to Brazil, signing for Bahia, his ninth team in as many years.
Now, the 24-year-old is considered a journeyman trying to find his place in a team that is willing to take chance on him.
The blame for Adu's demise cannot just be laid on him. Major League Soccer, advisers, agents and anyone else that was in his circle must take some blame. Perhaps it would have been best if he had remained at the IMG Academy in Florida for two more years before setting foot in MLS. Perhaps the league should have controlled the media exposure much better than they did. Perhaps Adu could have trained with a youth side in Europe in his teen years and then comeback to play for DC United. These are things that should have been thought about earlier, but it is now too late.
As for Green, it is a good thing that he is with Bayern Munich at this time as the team keeps its young players out of the spotlight and only has them focus on their soccer development with the hope of them eventually moving up to the senior team. It is also good to see in the rare comments he has made so far that he seems to be a rather grounded individual who wants to be the best, but is not in a hurry to make it to the top.
With the World Cup only a few months away, some will probably call for the 18-year-old to be included in the 23-man roster. That is up to Klinsmann to decide, but if he chooses not to do so it would not be the end of the world. However, if he does take Green along to Brazil it would be best to just leave him on the bench and let him experience the atmosphere of the tournament so that he can focus on playing when the 2018 World Cup comes around. Players such as Ronaldo and Kaka were included in Brazil's teams in 1994 and 2002 respectively without playing a single game. It was in the following World Cups where they played and had vital roles.
The USSF has got to play this right and protect Green at this early stage of his career like Bayern Munich is doing or we could be talking about another story similar to Adu's in the future.