The boo-birds flew the coop almost before it was over.
In the aftermath of the United States' elimination from Olympic soccer contention, Freddy Adu earned his customary share of the blame.
Fair enough. Opinions are opinions, and here's another.
Freddy Adu can still become a star.
Adu has enough talent. Few would disagree. The problem has always been consistency. It's dogged him for years and lingers even when he plays well—as he did, regardless of what some might say, for the US in an otherwise forgettable Olympic qualifying tournament.
So the question—unlikely as it is for us to be asking this of a 22-year-old—remains the same. Can Adu ever become the star he was always supposed to be?
Here are five reasons why he can.
If that seems like a long time, that's because it is. But Adu is still only 22 years old.
Let's not forget that.
Adu turns 23 in June, and while guys like Lionel Messi were already international superstars by that age, not every player develops at the same pace.
It's completely unrealistic to think Adu will ever reach Messi's level, but it's also unrealistic to think he's finished developing.
Adu has played for eight clubs in five countries.
In Portugal, it was Benfica and Belenenses.
In France (or the French league, at least), it was AS Monaco.
In Greece, it was Aris.
And in Turkey, it was Caykur Rizespor.
Granted, such a long list could mean there's something about Adu that puts clubs off. But it does mean that Adu has racked up years of experience in various environments.
Think about it. Even if he hasn't always succeeded—and he hasn't—Adu has learned plenty of different ideas, tactics and styles from different players, coaches and administrators.
That can't be all bad.
Adu is currently in his second season with the Philadelphia Union. That's a good thing for him.
Playing in the MLS is a good fit for Adu, who should be able to grow in confidence thanks to a more comfortable (read: familiar) environment.
A return to MLS is what finally helped Landon Donovan blossom after an unhappy spell as a youth in Germany.
Maybe Adu will have a similar career arc.
Remember that part about experience a few slides back?
Adu's experience and leadership qualities became talking points for journalists before and during the United States' recent Olympic qualifiers.
And despite what some would tell you, Adu—who served as captain and was played out of position—did well at times for the US team.
As for the other times—did you see that roster? Yikes.
The 22-year-old prodigy has been a professional for eight years and it showed during the tournament. He provided leadership and experience to much-less-seasoned teammates, and his play was strong. His dead balls were spot on, his through balls incisive, and even though he was clearly played out of position on the right, Adu took men on with gusto. He could be anonymous for long spells as the play flowed through the opposite wing, but he set up several goals and scored a blinder himself.
With half an hour to play, Adu put the burden of leadership on his shoulders and raised his game to meet the occasion.
Cutting in with authority from the right wing to the center of midfield, Adu controlled the flow of the U.S. attack and created a series of quality chances.
The best two came within four minutes of each other: pinpoint setup passes to Terrence Boyd and Joe Corona, for goals that tied the score in the 65th minute and gave the U.S. the lead in the 68th.
And from NESN:
Things are different this time around. With eight years of pro soccer under his belt, Adu is a grizzled veteran among his peers. Four years of steady progress in MLS were followed by four years in the wilderness of European soccer. Of the 19 players called into training camp ahead of this month's qualifying tournament, Adu has the most professional experience by some measure.
It's hard to fathom how so much experience could be a bad thing for a 22-year-old.
The United States needs Freddy Adu. He will get another chance.
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey aren't getting any younger. The USMNT needs new attacking talent, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be handing out chances during the run-up to the next World Cup.
Central midfielder Jose Torres is a solid bet, and Adu could be too. His fine performances at the Gold Cup last summer suggested he already has a decent rapport with the established stars.
As Goal.com's Frank Isola wrote:
Adu is a terrific choice, especially after his solid showing in the Gold Cup last summer with the senior national team. His experience and quickness on the wing make Adu a dangerous attacking player. Also, Adu’s play with the Olympic team could go a long way toward making an impression with U.S. men's team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for these young players," Klinsmann said.
And the next two years will be a tremendous opportunity for Adu.