Important MLS Playoffs Match-Up: Sebastian Lletget vs. Dillon Powers
When the Los Angeles Galaxy play the Colorado Rapids tomorrow on Sunday, Dillon Powers and Sebastian Lletget are set to face off in the semifinals of the Western Conference of the 2016 MLS Playoffs, and this is an exciting duel for American soccer fans.
World Soccer Source has been high on Lletget and Powers for a few years now, and of the two, Lletget is the more exciting talent. Nevertheless, Powers is the type of complete midfielder that the United States didn’t have on the national team a decade ago.
It’s hard to see why these two don’t play for Jürgen Klinsmann on the national team yet, but the MLS Playoffs offer a chance for fans to see these two play in important games, and the two should motivate each other to raise their games.
Both Powers and Lletget have been played in basically every midfield position by their coaches, but one would have to say that Lletget is an attacking midfielder and Powers is a box-to-box midfielder. Lletget has more trickery and creativity than Powers, but Powers is a technical and creative player in his own right. Powers will shake people off the dribble, play skillful assists, and score. Using both feet to dribble, pass, and shoot is an often overlooked skill, but both of these midfielders use both feet well.
When the LA Galaxy face the Colorado Rapids, the Powers-Lletget matchup won’t be the main storyline or talking point, but this is what soccer fans and U.S. national team fans should focus on. This matchup will be a battle of two fairly young American midfielders who offer a glimpse of a more talented breed of American attacking midfielders. Although Powers was described as a box-to-box midfielder, he is also an attacking midfielder who hasn’t been mentioned when the media and fans discuss possible playmakers for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
If you want to look at the improvement and growth of American soccer, looking at these two midfielders is a great place to start. For a few decades now, Americans and non-Americans have been wondering when American soccer would really improve, and the fact that two complete midfielders like these are playing in MLS really showcases how the ability and soccer-mind of American players has noticeably improved.
It will be interesting to see if Lletget will look to turn on the creativity and individual trickery against Powers, and it will be interesting to see if Powers can wear Lletget out in the midfield. Based on this season’s play, we should see Powers displaying more skill than he gets credit for, and we should see Lletget show that he can run hard for the entire game.
Sacha Kljestan once tweeted to Klinsmann, “Are you even watching?” Obviously, he is watching, but maybe there are more American skill players out there than he will acknowledge.
Is it true that the American player pool lacks the types of game-changing attacking players to take the U.S. Men’s National Team to the next level?
The United States doesn’t have a Lionel Messi or a Neymar or an Alexis Sánchez, but that doesn’t mean that the United States doesn’t have dynamic, quick, and talented attacking players that can improve the Americans’ offense.
Besides the veteran Clint Dempsey, there are plenty of other young, talented American attacking players. These players aren’t veterans, but they are willing and able to be effective at the international level. Some are more ready than others.
Any American starting lineup should have two center midfielders responsible for recovering possession in the midfield, but it should also have four attacking players.
A respectable squad should have a center forward and either an attacking midfielder or a second striker. Likewise, fast and dynamic wings are also advisable to really compete at the highest level.
The formation impacts what kinds of attacking players start, but we can divide attacking players into four categories (some of which overlap): attacking midfielders, wingers, second strikers (withdrawn forwards), and center forwards (first strikers).
Below, World Soccer Source discusses several of these attacking players, and Juan Agudelo is excluded because he is a known commodity.
Bradford Jamieson IV, the jewel of this list, fits into every category.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of new American attacking players.
Let’s break down the players into categories:
(Sebastian Lletget, Emerson Hyndman, Marc Pelosi, Bradford Jamieson IV, Luis Gil, Benji Joya)
Technically, attacking midfielders includes wings and Number 10s, but here the term attacking midfielders will refer to Number 10s.
Sebastian Lletget has a ton of exposure playing with the LA Galaxy, and he keeps surpassing expectations. If you’ve been waiting for an American attacking midfielder or Number 10 that checks all the boxes for skill, athleticism, and workrate, then look no further than Lletget. The LA Galaxy attacking midfielder combines very well with elite teammates, and he puts the ball in the back of the net.
Now back in MLS, Marc Pelosi should have the playing time to be able to show more of what he can do. Luis Gil is a known talent that continues to improve, and Bradford Jamieson IV is more of a forward that is good enough to thrive in any attacking position (he’ll be discussed more later).
Benji Joya is a center midfielder that also thrives as an attacking midfielder or out wide, and he should soon see the consistent playing time to show all of his talent and qualities.
(Bradford Jamieson IV, Ethan Finlay, José Villarreal, Paul Arriola, Jordan Allen, Romain Gall, Dillon Serna)
Ethan Finlay is playing outstanding in MLS where he showcases his speed and two-footed skill. Finlay’s bombing runs down the wings and inside toward the penalty box are a joy to watch. His first-time right-footed chipped goal, and his curling goal off his weaker left foot after cutting inside are two highlights that stand out for him.
José Villarreal has been displaying his creativity and footwork in MLS for several years, and he continues to show with the LA Galaxy why he should soon be a national team player. The Inglewood native is a prototypical winger who despite his flair likes to get physical. Villarreal is an ideal player to play as a wing in the midfield or in an attacking trident.
Paul Arriola had an excellent U-20 World Cup where he showcased his skill, speed, and toughness, and this club season with Club Tijuana should be a big one for him.
Jordan Allen continues to improve in MLS, and a more consistent playing position should see him thrive. Allen is mentally strong, fast, and technical with a big ceiling.
Romain Gall and Dillon Serna are similar to Allen in that more minutes and a more consistent position on the field should cause them to thrive. Serna has a collection of golazos going.
(Bradford Jamieson IV, José Villarreal, Ethan Finlay)
Bradford Jamieson IV is a dream of a second striker or withdrawn forward. Amazing speed and exceptional skill and creativity make Jamieson the jewel of the United States’ upcoming attacking talents. Jamieson is a young Clint Dempsey, but much faster and maybe more technical and creative.
Ethan Finlay and Villarreal are normally thought of as wings, but they have all of the qualities to excel as second strikers, which is what Villarreal frequently plays for the Galaxy anyway.
(Rubio Rubin, Jordan Morris, Mario Rodriguez)
Anyone that follows the U.S. Men’s National Team has seen Rubio Rubin and Jordan Morris play, and in the U-20 World Cup, Rubin gave American soccer fans a lot to be excited about. Both players have featured for the National Team.
Mario Rodriguez hasn’t featured like Rubin and Morris have, but he has all of the qualities to be a Number 9 for the United States. Talented, two-footed, fast, and tall, Rodriguez is a complete striker like Rubin and Morris are. Rodriguez is a big striker that excels with the ball at his feet, plus he’s good in the air.
It will be interesting to see if all three of these players play much for the National Team and how they compare to one another.
With the arrival of central midfielder Steven Gerrard and attacking midfielder Giovani Dos Santos, who should start for the Los Angeles Galaxy?
There’s no need to change up the Galaxy’s solid defensive unit made up of Jaime Penedo in goal, Dan Gargan at right back, Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza as the center backs, and Robbie Rogers at left back, but there’s not enough room in the Front Six for all of the LA’s deserving players.
Making up the two-man center midfield or defensive midfield pairing, Juninho and Steven Gerrard is a strong and non-controversial pairing.
Juninho is a solid MLS center midfielder with several years of consistently good performances. Gerrard is a legenday center midfielder that can play a box-to-box role or deeper role where he anchors the midfield with his passing, vision, and recovery play.
Both Gerrard and Juninho are intelligent players that know how to adapt their midfield play to what is needed, so there’s no need to designate one as the defensive midfielder and the other one as the box-to-box midfielder. Both players will go forward or drop back depending on what the other one does.
The more attacking roles are where the 50/50 personnel decisions will arise. Whenever Robbie Keane retires or goes elsewhere, there will be one less set-in-stone starting spot, but for now, there are many line-up decisions to be made.
In the four attacking roles, Sebastian Lletget has cemented himself as a starter, and playing as an attacking midfielder right, left, or center likely makes little difference to his positive impact in the lineup.
Lletget can also play as a forward in several tactical setups.
Gyasi Zardes has to be considered the center forward, first striker, or Number 9 for this squad with Keane sitting underneath him as the second striker or withdrawn striker, and this already turns the Galaxy’s formation into a 4-4-2 with Juninho and Gerrard in the center of the midfield.
With the personnel in the roster naturally lending itself to a 4-4-2 formation, this puts Lletget and someone else as the outside midfielders or wings. Along with Lletget, the decision is Dos Santos or José Villarreal, and Dos Santos’ salary is several million dollars.
Dos Santos’ reputation and salary tends to make him be thought of as a starter, but Villarreal offers so much to the squad, not to mention his natural ability as a wing.
Villarreal like Dos Santos is left-footed, which makes him a strong choice to play as a left wing or as an inverted winger on the right wing.
For all of Villarreal’s skill, Dos Santos has to be considered more talented for now, but Villarreal is still on the rise. Villarreal is also a tougher player that runs more, tracks back more on defense, and plays with more physicality.
Comparing Villarreal and Dos Santos, Dos Santos is a more dynamic attacker, but Villarreal is also a skilled, quick, and dynamic attacker that provides more work rate and defending.
For the Los Angles Galaxy, the real lineup toss up will be the Dos Santos or Villarreal decision, and likely circumstances like fitness, injuries, and matchups will dictate who starts.
The Galaxy should be considered arguably the best team in MLS this season with their current roster, and the second half of the season should provide plenty of storylines about players and lineup decisions.
Bruce Arena will have to see what his best lineup really is and if there is more than one best lineup.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of MLS players that are worthy of a United States Men’s National Team call-up, but it is a list of some of the key names that World Soccer Source felt deserved special recognition.
Any player whose name was forgotten or accidentally overlooked isn’t necessarily not rated highly by World Soccer Source.
MLS and American soccer now have more quality players of various positions than there are room for on the national team.
Some players who were recently used by Jürgen Klinsmann aren’t discussed in this article.
Below are the names of MLS players that World Soccer Source chose to highlight for USMNT recognition:
Juan Agudelo, Forward, New England Revolution
The most talented and creative of all the American strikers. Jürgen Klinsmann already rates and has used Juan Agudelo, but he has been out of the national team picture the last year because of a state of club limbo that has now been resolved. Agudelo is more technical, more creative, and more impactful that Jozy Altidore, whose game has improved tremendously the past 3-4 years. Despite Altidore’s underrated technical ability, Altidore can’t do the things that Agudelo can.
Benny Feilhaber, Midfielder, Sporting Kansas City
The attacking midfielder and now also central midfielder is the best playmaker in the American player pool. He has the most proven skill and experience amongst American Number 10’s. Feilhaber has always displayed smooth technical ability on the international level against elite opponents.
Dillon Powers, Midfielder, Colorado Rapids
This American midfielder is a complete midfielder that brings loads of skill, running, defending, and versatility. He’s technical and athletic, and he can play any position in the midfield, in addition to excelling as a withdrawn striker. He’s a playmaker with the work rate of a two-way center midfielder.
Maurice Edu, Midfielder/Defender, Philadelphia Union
The United States isn’t good enough to not need an experienced and proven midfielder and defender like Maurice Edu. His technical ability, defending, work rate, and athleticism are proven at the European and international level. A useful player for the national team.
Kelyn Rowe, Midfielder/Forward, New England Revolution
Kelyn Rowe is an attacking midfielder or forward that can play wide or centrally, and his two-footed skill, speed, and creativity are all qualities the national team needs. Rowe is a more talented and faster player than Graham Zusi, whom Klinsmann has used a lot during his tenure. Rowe like Powers is the type of skillful player the USA cannot afford to snub.
José Villarreal, Midfielder/Forward, LA Galaxy
José Villarreal is an exciting attacking player blessed with quickness, 1v1 skill, excellent passing, and a nose for goal. Slippery and creative, this player has a level of toughness and fighting spirit that goes underrated. One of the very best young American players.
Andrew Farrell, Defender, New England Revolution
Andrew Farrell has looked good in his natural position of center back because of his combination of skill, speed, defensive prowess and fundamentals, and impressive athleticism. The goal for USMNT center backs is to have the speed and defensive ability to defend fast and talented attackers plus the ability to calmly play the ball out of the back or calmly keep possession in the U.S.’ defensive third. Farrell checks all of the boxes for an international center back.
Shane O’Neill isn’t as athletically impressive as Farrell, but O’Neill is fast, quick, tall, and strong. O’Neill has good defensive instincts and fundamentals, and he’s excellent on the ball. He’s another center back the USMNT could really use.
Kofi Sarkodie, Defender, Houston Dynamo
For a national team that needs another modern right back that both defends and attacks like Yedlin, Sarkodie is likely the best in this regard in MLS. Sarkodie is hard to get past, and his speed and skill are a threat down the sideline in the attack. Sarkodie would seem like an obvious choice as a right back to test out with the national team as his defending is arguably better than Yedlin’s.
Charlie Davies, Forward, New England Revolution
Charlie Davies proved his effectiveness and partnership with Jozy Altidore years ago. Now fully-recovered, Davies has had several strong years in a row in MLS. The speed of Davies is a huge threat in the attack, and his overall skill-level and style of play are proven.
Clint Irwin, Goalkeeper, Colorado Rapids
The USMNT has been testing out Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid quite a lot, but Clint Irwin is a stand-out MLS goalkeeper that is positionally-sound and a great shot stopper. Irwin makes impressive saves, and he doesn’t have any clear weakness in regards to his goalkeeping fundamentals.
The MLS-All Star roster has no left back. This was inexcusable for MLS All-Star coach Caleb Porter because The MLS All-Star Game is a marketing tool to try to beat a famous European club in order to up the profile of the league.
The absence of Chris Klute from the roster to start at left back was a big oversight by MLS, especially with an excellent two-way right back like Yedlin on the roster. Having two skilled and speedy outside backs would have been a better advertisement for the league.
The fans voted for 11 starters, omitting a left back, but Porter doesn’t have to start these 11 players. Porter’s job was then to select 10 more players, not including MLS commissioner Don Garber’s two picks.
This brought the roster to 23 players.
Unfortunately the roster doesn’t include a left back, so it would seem that both Porter and Garber are to blame for not selecting a left back or at least another outside back that can play on the left.
Given the lack of a left back on the roster, picking a Best XI to face Bayern Munich requires immediately figuring out who to stick at left back, so that Bayern doesn’t run amok on the MLS All-Stars, which they might very well do anyway.
Sticking Michael Parkhurst at left back is the best option to face Bayern Munich because at least Parkhurst has experience playing the position on the international level.
Some of the other Starting XI choices should be easy for Porter, if he picks the best players and the best combination of players. DeAndre Yedlin should be a lock as the starting right back, and Osvaldo Alonso and Michael Bradley should be locks as the defensive midfielders.
In the attack, starting Tim Cahill as the central attacking midfielder behind teammate Thierry Henry is the strongest option, and flanking Cahill with Seattle teammates Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey gives the MLS All-Stars the most skill and firepower against a team of Bayern Munich’s caliber.
The two center back spots are highly debatable. Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler is an obvious option because of their chemistry playing for Sporting Kansas City.
Maurice Edu was a late edition to the All-Star Game, and Edu is an interesting option to start at center back with Besler because of his international experience and center back play with the Philadelphia Union.
Perhaps an Edu-Besler partnership is the best advertisement for the league, and it could also help out the United States Men’s National Team by giving Edu minutes with Besler, which is a strong partnership that the United States could use in the future.
Edu and Besler both certainly possess the right type of combination of defending, speed, and skill on the ball needed to be competitive against a team like Bayern.
If the objective is to beat Bayern Munich, then starting Henry as the lone striker with Martins, Cahill, and Dempsey floating behind him offers elite talent and tons of experience against world-class competition.
With Osvaldo and Bradley protecting the defense and manning the back of the midfield, the attackers listed above have plenty of defensive coverage behind them, and those attackers should be providing a significant amount of pressure on the Bayern Munich defense as well.
The best Starting XI is debatable and up to Porter, but the line-up below is arguably the strongest and most balanced XI amongst the roster options.
The Best MLS ALL-STAR XI (4-2-3-1)
GK:Nick RIMANDO (Real Salt Lake)
RB:DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders)
CB: Maurice EDU (Philadelphia Union)
CB: Matt BESLER (Sporting KC)
LB: Michael PARKHURST (Columbus Crew)
DM: Osvaldo ALONSO (Seattle Sounders)
CM: Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)
RW: Obafemi MARTINS (Seattle Sounders)
CAM: Tim CAHILL (New York Red Bulls)
LW: Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)
S: Thierry HENRY (New York Red Bulls)
Who does World Soccer Source think should start in the MLS All-Star Game not restricting the options to the 23-man roster picked or the Starting XI voted upon?
The World Soccer Source MLS All-Star XI (4-3-3):
GK: Clint IRWIN (Colorado Rapids)
RB: DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders)
CB: Shane O’NEILL (Colorado Rapids)
CB: Matt BESLER (Sporting KC)
LB: Chris KLUTE (Colorado Rapids)
CM: Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)
DM: Osvaldo ALONSO (Seattle Sounders)
CM: Benny FEILHABER (Sporting KC)
F: Tim CAHILL (New York Red Bulls)
F: Thierry HENRY (New York Red Bulls)
F: Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)
YEDLIN O’NEILL BESLER KLUTE
BRADLEY ALONSO FEILHABER
CAHILL HENRY DEMPSEY
Editor’s Note: Omar Gonzalez was originally listed as the starting center back with Matt Besler in the original version of this article, but Gonzalez was dropped from the roster on August 2nd due to the fact that he’d be playing a club game two days later. Maurice Edu was added to the roster on August 2nd as well.
This list of MLS Players That Should Be USMNT Regulars is in no particular order, and it excludes Maurice Edu who has more or less been a United States Men’s National Team regular under Jürgen Klinsmann.
Listing these players all in one place highlights the amount of quality American players that have been almost totally overlooked by Klinsmann for national team duty despite the problems the United States has displayed not only in the defense but in the ability to keep possession and score goals.
At a time when there are a higher number of quality American players than in the past, the United States Men’s National Team is not capitalizing on this phenomenon.
Winning is important, but a strong win, draw, and loss record can be deceptive if the competition isn’t that strong.
With the 2014 USA World Cup squad mostly decided, should Klinsmann have incorporated more of the new or younger players into the national team? You be the judge, but the credentials of the players listed are impressive and well-known.
Below is the list of MLS players that have been either frozen out or underused by Jürgen Klinsmann:
The goal of American soccer has always been to close the gap with soccer’s giants by having more technically-skilled American players on the club and international level.
Americans have seen drastic improvement in Major League Soccer since it started, but MLS still displays not enough quality collective play from teams, which stems from a lack of a critical mass of technical and athletic players on each team that can allow MLS teams to really keep possession, display excellent skill on the ball, showcase quality passing, create enough scoring chances, and score.
With much of the United States Men’s National Team coming from MLS due to the return of many USMNT regulars to MLS from European soccer and due to the improvement of the league overall, World Soccer Source surveys the American player pool in MLS and selects an All-American Best XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Oddly enough, this Best XI is almost identical to the USMNT Best XI that World Soccer Source would select with the exception of players such as Joe Benny Corona, Juan Agudelo, and Tim Howard.
Below is World Soccer Source’s MLS All-American Best XI:
Arturo Vidal is world football’s central midfielder par excellence, and he is in a different solar system than Benji Joya.
Benji Joya has never been called The American Arturo Vidal, but it has a nice ring to it.
The non-existent nickname is obviously totally unwarranted at this point in time for the 20 year old central midfielder, but it’s a nickname that perhaps Joya can hopefully give some credibility to one day.
Two things are clear about Freddy Adu: 1.) his technical skill-set, passing, and 1v1 abilities are very rare for an American (even if he is from Ghana); and 2.) Adu has been sold or loaned from club to club where he often saw lots of coaching changes.
Adu isn’t free of some flaws in his game, and these will be discussed later in this article.
In the recent takedown piece from LANCE!NET, the writer of the article, Igor Sigueira, (writing from Rio de Janeiro) wrote that the reason that Adu was not going to have his contract renewed was “technical deficiency,” but no coach was quoted as saying that.
The article itself was entitled “Bahia is going to release Freddy Adu who adds another failure to his career,” which implies that the purpose of the article was to trash Adu.
In fact, the quote from the technical director stated that they felt that other players were better than Adu, and this is different than saying that someone doesn’t have the requisite technical ability to play in Brazil. Nevertheless, many articles emerged in the United States saying that Bahia would not be renewing Adu’s contract because of a lack of technical ability, which is simply not what any member of Bahia was quoted as saying in the article.
This was the belief of the writer of the article, Igor Siqueira. While Siqueira is entitled to draw the conclusion that the comments about Adu implied that the technical director or “director of soccer”, Anderson Barros, felt Adu didn’t have the required skill-level, no one at Bahia was quoted in the LANCE!NET article as saying that Adu’s problem was a lack of the needed technical ability.
In fact the exact quote was this:
“Ele não joga porque entendemos que outros são superiores e aí ele não teve tantas oportunidades assim. Vai acabar o contrato e o Adu vai seguir a vida dele. Vai ficar livre para procurar outro clube.” This quote means: “He doesn’t play because we know (literally, understand) that others are superior and so he didn’t have many opportunities due to that. His contract is going to end and he’s going to continue on with his life. He’ll be free to look for another club.”
Turning to Adu’s reputation in the United States, the reason why Freddy Adu has so many critics is that he displays a prolific skill-set for an American soccer player, which rightly makes people have very high expectations of him. Expecting a lot from a player of his technical quality and quickness is fair, but there is a double-standard applied to Adu that other American players aren’t subjected to.
In many ways, Clint Dempsey is also the subject of a lot of criticism and cheap shots from American soccer writers, pundits, and fans. Dempsey is frequently openly disrespected by the American media, despite his outstanding club and international resume for an American soccer player, and it should be said that playing for seven seasons in the English Premier League and scoring as many goals as he did as a midfielder is a great achievement for any player.
Dempsey and Adu are similar in their willingness to try tricks or low percentage passes or flicks that most American soccer players aren’t willing to try, so when these flashes of imagination fail, the critics pounce.
Unlike Adu, Dempsey has a very consistent and impressive club resume in terms of goals, performances, and playing time, but Adu deserves a certain level of respect for playing for Benfica and Bahia.
Whatever you think of Freddy Adu, not many Americans or soccer players of any nationality would have been signed by Benfica or a Brazilian club in the Brasileirão, and that’s a testament to his skill-level.
While Clint Dempsey disproved the belief that soccer players born and raised in the United States couldn’t play creative, skillful, and world-class soccer, Freddy Adu’s early childhood spent in Ghana playing pickup soccer or whatever you wish to call it has to be given much of the credit for his playing style and ability.
Nevertheless, Freddy Adu lived in the United States as long or longer than he lived in Ghana, and he was able to further cultivate his touch, tricks, vision, passing ability, and shooting in the United States.
Adu’s quick and inventive passing combined with his trickery and scoring ability make him a rare commodity among American soccer players, but he does have a few areas of his game that need to be improved.
As Adu looks to play one-to-two touch soccer based on passing and moving with creative play, he frequently appeared to get frustrated with his former teammates in MLS’ inability to quickly receive and release passes, in addition to their failure to make runs into the pockets of space where he played passes for them.
Given this problem of playing with many players in the United States who were unable to play up to his level, the thing Freddy Adu needs to do if he comes back to MLS is to continue to make runs, show for the ball, and display lots of movement off the ball, even when his teammates aren’t playing the more advanced style of soccer that he plays.
Adu must continue to make runs and demand the ball whether or not his teammates are passing and moving in order to facilitate a superior brand of play.
One thing that was apparent with the Philadelphia Union was that Adu would frequently play first time passes into space for his teammates after they passed to him, and they just didn’t continue their runs or even see the space available to them.
The frequency with which scenarios such as the one described above occurred caused Adu to be frustrated, and they caused him to frequently begin to start running less or become less active off the ball after his teammates were struggling to play a more advanced school of soccer.
Recently with Bahia, Adu saw many coaching changes, and the current coach, Cristóvão Borges, either didn’t rate Adu or he saw Adu as a less important bench player than players of other positions. In short, Cristóvão made a point of frequently using most of his bench spots for players who weren’t attacking midfielders.
Ivan Dias Marques of CORREIO described Cristóvão (as he’s known in Brazil) as a defensive-minded coach, and many of the professional reporters and journalists in Salvador such as Ivan Dias Marques, Pedro Sento Sé, Miro Palma, and Felipe Santana took to Twitter on several occasions to voice their belief that Adu deserved more playing time based on their evaluations of him in person at practices.
With Bahia’s games basically only available in the United States via streaming with poor video quality, it’s difficult to really draw any strong conclusions about Adu’s play in Brazil since he rarely played, and his coach didn’t rate him. Coaches frequently have their favorites, and maybe Cristóvão had a justifiable reason for not playing Adu.
Even Adu’s critics and detractors are quick to concede that Adu has the talent and the quickness to play at a high level and for the United States, but many critics don’t value Adu’s creativity and technical-ability very much because they view him as a player that doesn’t play enough defense or that doesn’t show enough running and movement off the ball.
World Soccer Source views Adu as a special talent that has the ability to excel even against elite competition, but World Soccer Source also concedes that fair or not, Adu might need to display some more movement off the ball and a greater urgency to stamp his imprint on games when his teammates aren’t passing and moving in a fashion that he feels is the correct way to play soccer.
The United States Men’s National Team has other playmakers such as Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, and Mix Diskerud, but Adu is too talented to close the book on.
Either Freddy Adu himself or his next coach should make a point of encouraging Adu to show more movement and urgency in games with disorganized passing and lots of long balls. Additionally, Adu like all players has areas of his game that could use some improvement.
For the most part, Adu knows when to dribble, when to pass, and when to look to shoot, but certainly any player could benefit from a thorough evaluation of their play, in order to correct any weaknesses in their play.
Based on Freddy Adu’s play with Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore, in addition to Joe Corona, Juan Agudelo, and Mix Diskerud, it would appear that Adu is certainly a player who performs well and thrives with players of their technical ability and playing style, but some coach or trainer would be wise to maximize Adu’s abilities by improving any areas of his game that are causing him to not see enough playing time or to garner so much criticism, even if he receives equally as much praise from supporters.
The United States is experiencing the deepest player pool in its history, but Freddy Adu is still a special talent who can be very useful to Jürgen Klinsmann, the USMNT, and MLS if those people and entities learn how to take his talents and improve them. After all, the job of a coach is to teach and improve players, as well as offering constructive criticism and observations.
Real change comes from the player himself, but much of the criticism of Freddy Adu is excessive especially when clearly inferior players such as Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi, Sacha Kljestan, and José Torres are playing for or being call up to the USMNT with some frequency.
All of those players are respectable professional players who have done well in their careers, but as long as players such as Freddy Adu, Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, and Mix Diskerud are all not seeing significant minutes with the full-strength USMNT on a consistent basis, there is a systemic problem with Klinsmann’s USMNT that goes deeper than freezing out Adu: an undervaluing of creative midfielders who are natural playmakers.