Freddy Adu received a rude welcome to his first Las Vegas Lights FC practice.
The former American soccer prodigy and U.S. national team member was drilled in the face from a header by Lights defender Zak Drake in an 11-on-11 scrimmage Tuesday, though he shook it off and kept playing. The 28-year-old attacking midfielder/forward is looking to impress after joining the team on a tryout basis, meaning he does not have a contract with the Lights but can work out with the club.
The trial gives Adu a chance to restart his professional career after not playing in 2017, and his first practice with the United Soccer League team was a good start. He played forward in a 30-minute practice scrimmage and recorded an assist, though the club declined to comment on his presence since he is not under contract.
“Our club has numerous players currently in market on a trial basis to potentially become members of our official inaugural roster,” Lights owner Brett Lashbrook said in a statement. “Per Lights FC club policy, we do not publicly release the names of players on trial with us until they have been officially signed to a formal player contract.”
Adu, who was born in Ghana but immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was 8, had a storied beginning to his soccer career but followed up much of his promise with disappointment.
He became the youngest American to sign a major league professional contract in any team sport when at 14 he was chosen by D.C. United as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. He also made his debut for the U.S. senior national team at 16, becoming the youngest player to earn a cap.
Adu scored 11 goals in 87 games for D.C. United from 2004 to 2006, but after leaving MLS in 2007, he became a career journeyman. From 2007 to 2016, he played for 11 teams domestically and abroad, most recently appearing with the USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015 and 2016.
Adu played in 12 games with the Rowdies and didn’t score a goal. He went on trial with two teams in 2017, MLS’ Portland Timbers and Polish club Sandecja Nowy Sacz, but didn’t sign a contract with either. Despite sitting out the entire season, Adu tweeted Friday that he was making a comeback to professional soccer.
“Have made a decision to start fresh after a year away from soccer,” Adu tweeted. “This decision is solely based on the fact that I want to play as much as possible this year then move forward from there. Have discovered my love for the sport again. News soon!”
Have made a decision to start fresh after a year away from soccer. This decision is solely based on the fact that I want to play as much as possible this year then move forward from there. Have discovered my love for the sport again 🙏🏿. News soon!
— Freddy Adu (@FreddyAdu) January 19, 2018
A soccer ball to the face tested Adu’s love for the sport early into his comeback attempt, but he was laughing and smiling with Drake after practice. How many more training sessions he gets with the Lights remains to be seen.