Freddy and Eddie’s Big Fat Greek Adventure

Freddy Adu scored his first goal this weekend for Aris Salonika in the club’s match vs. Ergotelis in Greece.  Not long ago, as we waited for confirmation of Freddy’s next career move, I wrote “Much Adu About Something?   My default position: don’t give up on Freddy so easily.  

Now that we have our first goal, following a beautiful assist recently to fellow American Eddie Johnson, shall we declare victory? 

Others, like USSoccerDaily, are now writing their own cases for Freddy making the USA Men’s World Cup squad for South Africa.    Ives is asking his readers if Freddy should be called into camp for the Netherlands game.

Despite my stated position of thinking that Freddy has much to offer, it is not time to declare victory for Freddy’s World Cup hopes and he certainly should not start shooting more commercials with Pele.   However, it is a promising start for a player the USA could really use at his top form.   Hopefully this is the first report of many about positive news.

If there is a victory to be declared, and I’ll admit it may be too early for this as well, it may be of the choice of Greece as a home front for these two Americans (Adu and Johnson) who are restarting their stalled international club/country careers.

I’ve watched some games of the Greek league now that Eddie and Freddy are there and seen many more clips of goals and action.   In fact, the videos of this latest game are telling.

Aris Salonika vs. Ergotelis Goals

Freddy’s Goal

Was the Greek league a good choice because it offers the best soccer?   No.  I’m not convinced that the Greek level is much if any better than a good MLS game.   Sometimes the defending is simply comical.  Goalkeepers?  MLS goalies have a new option for international transfers. 

What the soccer does offer is intensity.   Sometimes that intensity proves to magnify the missing level of organization and skill on display.   The soccer is energetic, often frantic.

From a soccer perspective, this may not delight purists but it does offer a cauldron in which skillful players must raise their intensity, think quickly and (hopefully) continue to play with the smarts and skill they possess.   It also appears impossible for a player to “mail it in.”  From my limited time watching Greek soccer, effort appears paramount.    People haven’t often criticized Freddy for a lack of skill, but intensity, effort and heart have been question marks for some.   The Greek league should help sort that out.

But, to limit a discussion about the value of an international league for a growing player soley as a discussion of  the level of soccer played is a bit too narrow.   There are greater circumstances at play which can be as important to a player’s growth.

The intensity in the Greek league does not limit itself to the actual soccer.   The fans, the chanting, the press coverage and the atmosphere are things that are simply not re-creatable today in the USA.   Watch those videos – better LISTEN to those videos – again. 

When Aris scores, the roar of the crowd and the way the fans rush the field barriers is something that tells a player that what they do matters, for all 90 minutes.   And it may be a small thing, but listen again to the VERY end of the short clip showing Freddy’s video.   The clip ends with the stadium announcer breaking through the crowd noise to announce the goal, and starting a call out of “Freddy,” to which the crowd emphatically answers “ADU” in full voice.    Fans that are this into their players will equally expect them to perform.

So what we have here is a league with a level of soccer that isn’t terribly high overall, but that brings intensity to the game on and around the field.  The sometimes lax defending and goalkeeping says to me that there’s an opportunity for a skillful player who can match the surrounding intensity to shine.   But what if that player happens to be a young, potential superstar that can become a critical element in a team whose support will demand he play 100% all the time – and he (or they, sorry Eddie) can rise to the occasion? 

What is there for the taking: regained confidence, increased maturity and the potential to be a standout in a European league.  That sounds like a good situation indeed.  It’s the kind of situation that readies someone for bigger things, bigger pressures and bigger success.  You know, the kind of things that you see at World Cups or top-tier European leagues.

Good luck over there boys.