Freddy Adu had not played for the U.S. national team in two years, yet in the Gold Cup semifinals, with the score 0-0 and the team looking unimpressive against a Panama side that already beat them once in this tournament, Adu was put in the game. The forgotten 22-year-old who was unfairly labeled as the "American Pele" at 14 and became the youngest to ever play for the U.S. team at 16 was subbed in because the team needed a spark and, to the surprise of many, he provided it.
He showed glimpses of the speed and creativity that caused the hype and overwhelming expectations years ago and 12 minutes after he entered the game, he found Landon Donovan with a long pass from midfield and Donovan then supplied a great pass of his own for Clint Dempsey to finish at the far post. After the celebration, Dempsey gave credit to both Donovan and Adu for setting him up for the goal that gave them a 1-0 win and a spot in the Gold Cup final.
Though he only played for about half an hour against the 67th ranked team in the world, this will probably cause the urge to once again heap expectations on Adu. And while it's not the time for that, this is certainly a moment for Adu himself to enjoy. Since moving to Benfica from MLS in 2007, he's been loaned out to four different clubs around Europe and struggled to even get playing time. But, as he said after the Panama game, he's never stopped working. And last season, playing for Rizespor in the Turkish second division, he finally did well enough to impress Bob Bradley.
He survived the intense pressure forced on him at a young age and though he still has a long way to go, his persistence is starting to pay off and he's no longer a forgotten man.