by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
Freddy Adu was forced to watch every minute of the U.S. national team's dream run to the final of the Confederations Cup from the bench. That most likely will not be the case for him in the Gold Cup.
Coming off a disappointing season with Monaco, Adu is expected to see significant playing time for the U.S. throughout the CONCACAF tournament and he will also most likely be handed the keys to the team's offense.
This opportunity will be vital for Adu as it will give him a chance to prove his worth consistently, as well as provide him with a way to make a case for his inclusion in the remainder of the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign.
While the level of the opponents in the United States' Group B is noticeably weaker than that of the Hexagonal, Adu and the young U.S. team will be tested. The team opens up at Grenada on Independence Day, then takes on a Honduras side that gave the full-strength U.S. team a scare before losing 2-1 in Chicago last month. The U.S. team closes out the group stage with a match against lowly Haiti.
With head coach Bob Bradley looking to add depth to his top team, Adu will clearly need to be one of - if not the - best performers for the United States in the tournament. Adu needs to show Bradley and his critics that he provides more to the table than just offensive creativity.
Tracking back will be just as important as the inch-perfect through balls that Adu is known for. No, Adu is not going to be asked to defend like Javier Mascherano, but he will need to show that he can apply pressure competently and help the team regain possession. Such qualities are important for a team like the United States, which relies heavily on its defensive shape and pressure.
Adding these traits to his precise passing, superb vision and deft touch would surely give him the best chance to succeed in the Gold Cup.
"He has qualities to be a great player and so once he gets in the right situation to shine and show his qualities, I think he is going to take off," Oguchi Onyewu told SBI in May during the U.S. team's training camp in Miami.
If Adu can show that kind of confidence in himself and overcome the rustiness that comes with not having played much in recent months then the sky is the limit and the Gold Cup could just serve as his official coming out party.
So what's my take on Adu? I think it is blatantly obvious to see that he is a technically-gifted individual, but one who is not ready to break into the starting eleven just yet.
Lets face it, Bradley is not going to go with a 3-5-2 formation and he is unlikely to deploy a 4-4-2 diamond midfield lineup, so where exactly does Adu fit in the current scheme? Well, he isn't a central midfielder and he isn't a forward, so that leaves Adu on the flanks, positions currently occupied by incumbents Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.
This leaves Adu as a role player, one who comes off the bench in certain situations (not every game). If the former youth standout wants to earn more serious looks then he needs to prove his worth every time he steps onto the field for the U.S., a task that even he acknowledges.
"Jozy (Altidore) and I were in similar situations coming into the national team. We're both young players that have to earn their spot on the team," Adu said in training camp back in May. "Jozy kept working and working, he got his chance and took full advantage of it and hopefully when I get my chance I take full advantage of it."
Adu's big chance starts when the U.S. takes on Grenada in their Group B match on Saturday.
What do you think of Adu? Do you agree that he is not ready to be a starter for the national team? Think he should already have a bigger role with the team? Do you believe that he will carry the offensive load and prove his worth in the Gold Cup?
Share your thoughts below.