The prodigal son of the MLS.
"The next Pele."
Perhaps his name should now be "Icarus."
Adu, at 14 years old, was proclaimed the future of US soccer. He was drafted first in the MLS Superdraft by D.C. United. He did commercials with Pele.
The last seven years have not been kind to Adu. He's been on seven different teams during that time, finally ending up in Turkish second division club Caykur Rizespor. He was long-thought to be an outcast to the US national team and hadn't played for the national team since 2009.
The whispers and rumors about his downfall could be heard amongst those "in the know" in the soccer community.
Adu was a headcase. A prima donna. A diva who refused to work hard and expected things to come easy for him.
When coach Bob Bradley included him on the US national team for the 2001 Gold Cup, more than a few eyebrows were raised. MLS didn't even want anything to do with him.
Then came last Sunday's came against Mexico. You could call it redemption for Adu. You could call it a comeback.
He was far and away the best player on the American team.
He displayed the quickness and creativity that caught the eyes of soccer scouts almost eight years ago. He ran at the defense and found pockets of space. He made outstanding passes.
Here was, finally, the player we all thought Adu could be.
Bradley proclaimed that Adu had grown up—that he was impressed that Adu was willing to linger in Turkey's second division and work hard and be humble. Adu even did a self-professed Twitter ban.
So, the question is: What's next for Adu?
I don't think he's ready for any of Europe's top divisions, and I don't know he'll ever be that player. He's still young, at 21, but he hasn't proved himself anywhere, unless you count a relatively prosperous streak at Real Salt Lake in 2007.
The MLS is where Adu should be—if they'll have him back.
Adu burned so many bridges with the MLS brain-trust it wouldn't surprise me if they had pictures of him on their toilet paper.
The simple fact is that the MLS makes the most sense for Adu. It's a competitive league, and certainly better than Turkey's second division. But it's not so competitive as La Liga or the Premiership. He would playing at home, and, best of all, he would be under the watchful eye of the US soccer federation for the national team.
It's time for Adu to accept the fact he'll never be the "second coming of Pele," but he could be a very good American player for years to come.
Thus, the Portland Timbers are the perfect place for him.
The Timbers are the hottest show in the MLS right now. Their stadium is sold out and their fans are rabid. It's a wonderful atmosphere.
The Portland media are almost contrite in their treatment of Timbers players.
Best of all, Portland needs a play-making central mid-fielder. Diego Chara just isn't working out.
Adu could provide that spark of creativity missing from Portland's mid-field. Adu and Kalif Alhassan could create a potent combination. Kenny Cooper would love to have Adu's service.
This, of course, all depends on the "new and improved Freddy Adu." If it's the old Freddy Adu, then don't waste anyone's time. The last thing the Timbers require right now is a decisive voice in the locker room.
I'm not sure about Adu's contract. I don't think it would be difficult to get him.
The fact is that America is about second—and third, and fourth—chances, and Adu deserves his.
John Spencer, the coach of the Timbers, would be perfect for Adu. He's no-nonsense and doesn't accept excuses for laziness. If Adu wasn't cutting it, Spencer wouldn't hesitate to bench him.
It's an experiment that could work for everyone involved.