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Wednesday, May 7, 2008
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Adu is a key cog
In the 1970s a young pop group from Sweden burst onto the global scene with a style of music that contained neither originality nor creativity. This band is most known for an unforgettable, yet highly dubious record entitled "Dancing Queen."

If you haven't ascertained the identity of this Fearsome Foursome by now, I am seriously disappointed in your knowledge of appallingly awful music, but will give you assistance by revealing that this quartet was entitled ABBA. The name of this pillar of musical ingenuity was derived by using the first names of the group's members, which, for those who are keeping score at home, happened to be Anni-Frid, Benny, Bjorn, and Agnetha.

In the spirit of this creative brilliance I have also decided that a group named ABA will possess the key to the United States' success or failure at World Cup 2010, but unfortunately for all, of you my ABA is only three letters and uses the players' surnames instead of their first names.

The development of Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore over the next two seasons will determine whether America produces a memorable cup run like we did in South Korea/Japan or a regrettable cup performance like we displayed in Germany.

Every avid soccer fan in the United States has heard rave reviews about Freddy Adu for the past five years or so, but up to this point the Ghana-born American has failed to come close to reaching his limitless potential. Freddy has only made eleven appearances and logged less than two-hundred minutes all season for Portuguese team Benfica, who currently reside an astonishing 23 points behind Porto in the league standings.

Adu's move to Europe was designed as a progressive step to help the youngster flourish amongst the world's top players, but up to this point Freddy hasn't shown the soccer skills required to earn a starting spot week in and week out for current head coach Fernando Chalana's team.

The positive news for American fans, is that Adu has shone brightly for his country's colors. His set piece skills are superb and his speed with and without the ball is difficult for any defender to handle. Freddy can certainly dominate players of a similar age and stature, however his willingness to absorb the bruising, physical tackles by hard-nosed defenders seems to be marginal at best at the moment.

The United States will rely heavily on Adu's dribbling and passing skills in South Africa and the prodigy must be able to handle the inevitable fouls he will suffer or else Team America will struggle mightily to reach the knockout stage.

The emergence of Michael Bradley as a young superstar in 2008 has been viewed as a pleasant surprise by many supporters of the United States National Team. Detractors criticized Bradley during his early tenure with the senior squad with cries of nepotism from his father/head coach Bob Bradley. However those critics were silenced quicker than my cell phone in a movie theater when they saw the abundance of gifts that the 20-year old actually possesses.

Bradley's performances for Heerenveen have been the stuff of legends this season. Michael has amassed an incredible 19 goals for the club and his defensive play in midfield has also earned plaudits from across the Netherlands. Rumors of a summer move to Everton have become more prevalent in recent weeks and a Howard/Bradley American tandem on Merseyside would provide excitement for many fans of the Toffees.

Bradley will be the fulcrum of America's midfield in two years, and I believe that his performances in South Africa will ultimately determine the fate of the US squad. Michael will be entering the start of his soccer prime in two years time and his impact on the team needs to be similar to that of Landon Donovan's of World Cup 2002.

Dependable goalscoring from all positions has always been an Achilles' heel for the United States and Bradley must put the ball in the net on several occasions for America to earn the respect of its opponents. Altidore should provide a handful for the defenses of our adversaries, but without the threat of goals from midfield Jozy will be covered with relative ease and gaps in opposing backlines will be virtually nonexistent.

That brings me to the final piece of my ABA triumvirate, New York hitman Jozy Altidore.

Jozy has silky skills and his Adidas commercial is certainly more memorable to that of Reggie Bush or David Beckham. Altidore really flourished last season alongside former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel, and the Colombian's impressive goal tally of 19 goals in 24 starts seemed to rub off on the eighteen year old Altidore, who racked up his own very respectable return of nine goals in fifteen starts for the club.

Altidore's prodigious skills will soon see him courted by virtually every major soccer club in Europe, with Real Madrid currently the frontrunners to win the youngster's signature. Real Sporting Director Assistant Carlos Bucero scouted Altidore in New York last November and gossip persists that Los Merengues will acquire Jozy in the not too distant future.

Over the next two seasons the United States must see a pattern of improvement from Altidore similar to that of his past two seasons in Major League Soccer. The US has been devoid of world-class striker play since its inception, but Altidore has the potential to become a top notch marksman if he receives the guidance that only the world's elite professional clubs can provide.

The sooner Altidore heads abroad to play, the sooner the United States will benefit from his inevitably improved performances. Anyone who watches the United States National Team as religiously as I do knows that we are likely to generate just a couple of clear-cut scoring opportunities each game and if these chances are squandered there is zero chance of America beating any team likely to challenge for the World Cup Trophy.

World Cup 2010 will showcase all of this planet's best soccer players, and for the very first time I genuinely believe the United States will have several athletes that can create a stir around the world.

Maybe I'm crazy, but for the first time in American soccer history the possibilities are endless and my anticipation of greatness for ABA is not nearly as far-fetched as many naysayers may believe.

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