The year 2011 has been all about one thing for the United States. Win the Gold Cup. Friendlies before the tournament? They don't matter. Embarrassed by Spain? Preparation for the Gold Cup. Loss to Panama? It was the group stage and all that matters is that the U.S. get to the final and peak there. The problem with that approach is that it overlooked the need to actually get to the final.
Stuck in a scoreless tie in the semifinals of the Gold Cup as the second half wore on, the U.S. began to wonder, "what if we don't make the final?" It was a very real possibility at that point. No, they weren't losing, but they were tied and twice they had almost given up goals that would have put them behind.
So what does Bob Bradley do to stem the tide and find a goal that would put the U.S. into the final? To avoid a loss that might have cost him his job? To ensure a U.S. versus Mexico final that would make the good men and women at CONCACAF millions of dollars that I'm sure would only go to good causes? He puts in Freddy Adu.
No, it wasn't a joke. The former prodigy that hasn't even been able to establish a professional career in the last seven years was who Bradley turned to. You know, the guy who has maybe five caps with the first team and hasn't appeared for the U.S. since 2009. The guy who dated JoJo. That is who Bradley turned to. Crazy, ain't it?
Let's go back in time and review the Adu appearance. It's a doozy.
63nd minute: "Hey, it looks like someone is getting ready to come in the game for the U.S. Wait?!? Is that Freddy Adu? You have got to be kidding me." At this point Bob Bradley looks as desperate as the fat kid on prom night looking for a girl at 2 am when the after party starts to empty.
65th minute: The fourth official has the substitution card and is putting the numbers up on the board getting ready for the ball to go out of bounds. When it does, the referee signals for the substitution. Any hopes that Bob Bradley was about to jump out and yell "GOTCHA" are out the window. Adu really is going in the game.
66th minute: As soon as Adu comes jogging onto the pitch he finds Landon Donovan, grabs him by the arm and whispers sweet nothings in his air. Sweet nothings or something like this. "Listen, Landon. We both came into the match off the bench so don't go around thinking you're better than me. All-time leading U.S. goalscorerer? I'm not impressed."
68th minute: Adu has been on the ball twice so far. The first time he passed it right back despite minimal pressure and the second time he attempted a shot on the volley that didn't just miss the net. It went across the field and didn't even go out of touch. Seat getting a little warmer over there, Bob?
70th minute: Look at that. Another chance for Panama to score. This one isn't looking so good, but wait, there goes Freddy the other way. He turns his defender and races down the left. "I always knew that Freddy was the guy to turn this around." After a 40 yards run he loses the ball cheaply, then commits a foul trying to get it back. "Same old Freddy. I knew he was no good." Wait? That counts as defending, even if he fouled the Panamanian in trying to get the ball back. Freddy, defense? Huh.
75th minute: Bob Bradley doesn't look very happy over there on the U.S. bench. Panama has gotten a corner kick and dangerous free kick. There is little to nothing in the Americans' attack. It's not looking pretty for the U.S. and unsurprisingly, Bobbo doesn't like it. Hey Bob, you put Freddy Adu in! Did you really expect any different?
76th minute: The U.S. breaks quickly from their own half and get Adu the ball in the center circle. With his first touch he plays a fantastic ball way down the field on the right to a streaking Landon Donovan, who crosses for Clint Dempsey to finish. The U.S. scores and it was all started by a great pass by Freddy Adu. "I TOLD YOU ALL WE NEEDED WAS ADU!"
82nd minute: The ball gets away and Panama is coming back towards the U.S. Adu isn't just watching though. He's busting it back on defense and tracks a runner looking to get free in the center. What can't Freddy do?
86th minute: Since the goal Panama has put some pressure on the U.S and haven't been able to hold the ball to kill time. Then they outlet to Adu, who holds it and allows his teammates to push forward a bit. He passes to Michael Braldey, then gets it back. With three players chasing him down, he wriggles he was out of trouble, dribbles down the right and sets up Bradley right in the middle. It's the Freddy Adu Show!
89th minute: A little more Freddy! He gets it on the right, dances around a little bit and kills some time before passing to Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya passes right back and Adu takes the ball to the corner. "Oh, look! Fancy footwork!" Yeah, Freddy dances around a bit more to kill some more time before hitting the ball off a Panamanian for a throw in. He's everywhere. Cue the mass Twitter updates of "I knew all along that Freddy would be our guy." They all lie.
94th minute: The time's about to run out and a long Tim Howard goal kick is flicked on by Clint Dempsey. Who else runs after it but Adu, who forces Panama to give away a corner kick. The corner kick is short and Adu kills a little more time. Not long after the referee blows his whistle and the U.S. is on to the final. All hail Freddy! I guess Bob Bradley gets a one day reprieve too.