DAVID BECKHAM'SARRIVAL in Los Angeles (page 40) may hog the attention this week, but a betterindicator of soccer's future in the U.S. may be taking place in Canada, where agroup of promising Yanks stunned Brazil 2--1 last week in the Under-20 WorldCup. The deserved victory marked the first time a U.S. men's team had beatenBrazil in a FIFA world championship since 1989, and it heralded brightprospects for several U.S. players, including New York Red Bulls striker JozyAltidore, 17, who scored both goals against Brazil; Michael Bradley, 19, amidfielder for Holland's Heerenveen; and the captain, Real Salt Lake sniperFreddy Adu (above).
Needing abreakout performance on the world stage to entice European scouts and quietskeptics who consider him a marketing creation, Adu, 18, was spectacular lastweek. In a 6--1 victory against Poland he scored three gorgeous goals. AgainstBrazil he was even better, creating the first goal with a defensive takeawayand the second with a highlight-reel juggling move in the corner, splitting twodefenders before his shot landed on Altidore's foot for the game-winner."He's a very special player," Brazil coach Nelson Rodrigues said ofAdu, "with the kind of ability you see in South American players."
Why Adu hasn'tshown that transcendence on a regular basis in Major League Soccer is a goodquestion with myriad answers. But as the U.S. team entered the knockout roundsof a major tournament that it had realistic hopes of winning, Adu's reemergenceis a reminder that nobody should be too quick to bury the careers ofprodigious-but-inconsistent talents such as Adu or Michelle Wie. In May therespected CNBC sports-business analyst Darren Rovell wrote, "I want to bethe first—the first to call Freddy Adu a failure." One marvelous week in anage-group tournament doesn't mean Adu has arrived, but it's far too soon forthe short-attention-span sports culture to label him a failure.