Christian Pulisic is America's next great football hope but beware of previously-tipped stars like Freddy Adu

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Christian Pulisic displayed his quintessential American tattoo with a US flag and eagle adorning his left shoulder as he made his way to the bench in the win over Panama.

As a player, though, he’s everything but the quintessential USMNT star in that the 19-year-old displayed yet again his potential to not only carry his national team’s hopes at next year’s World Cup but that he could grow into a world-class talent.

Yes, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey have been worthy servants but the US have seldom had a star like the Borussia Dortmund teenager.

That said, there have been pretenders before him. We look at four American players who were tipped for big things only to fail miserably – Freddy Adu of course makes the list.


Stateside, he’s considered a legend. Jones was at the forefront of US soccer’s mainstream charge in the late 90s and early 2000s as he spearheaded LA Galaxy’s formative years during a successful 11-year playing career in the MLS.

He is USMNT’s all-time leading appearance maker with 164 and was the first mercurial talent from a nation renowned for churning out players with industry rather than guile.

But despite his pace and trickery earning national acclaim, outside of the US he never really fulfilled the potential he promised after a dazzling display at the 1994 World Cup.

He spent a season with Coventry after that summer but the dreadlocked winger only managed two goals in 25 appearances, though his first was a memorable winner against Norwich.

A spell with Vasco da Gama followed but he was soon back in the States following the formation of the MLS.

Cobi Jones during the 2002 World Cup

Cobi Jones during the 2002 World Cup


Billed as the saviour of soccer, the hype and hyperbole driven by the US marketing machine was ridiculous and ultimately crippling for Adu.

Signed by Nike at 13, playing in the MLS at 14 and turning out for his country at 16, Adu was tipped for it all and given plenty early in his career but ever since then it’s been a car crash.

He starred in his first season with DC United only for his elevated status within the team to grate on his team-mates. A two-week trial at Man United followed but he left DC for Real Salt Lake before impressing at the U20 World Cup to secure a move to Portuguese giants Benfica.

And there his career collapsed as the club cycled through three coaches in one year, the move proving to be the worst decision for the 18-year-old.

Loan trips from the French league (Monaco) back to Portugal (Belenenses), to Greece (Aris) and then Turkey (Caykur Rizespor) followed before he returned to the states with Philadelphia Union. He quickly moved on to Salvador (Bahia), Serbia (Jagodina), Finland (KuPS) and is now a free agent after being released by Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Some fall from grace for a player likened to Pele.

Freddy Adu in action for the USMNT in 2012

Freddy Adu in action for the USMNT in 2012


With 41 goals in 109 games for USMNT, including a double against Panama on Friday, you could be forgiven for feeling a sense of bewilderment at his inclusion on this list.

Ultimately, though, Altidore will forever be maligned for his spells in the Premier League, categorically among the worst, which has warranted his place in lists regarding the English top flight’s worst-ever strikers.

Granted, he’s scored goals in the MLS. He was prolific for New York Red Bulls and the 27-year-old continues to plunder aplenty with Toronto. So, where did it all go wrong for a player who is blessed with all the physical gifts to flourish in England?

A loan spell from Villarreal to relegation threatened Hull City was the first warning sign.  In 28 appearances he managed just one goal and looked short of the quality required. He burst into life at AZ Alkmaar as he transformed from an unsophisticated target man to an intelligent and slick forward who netted 38 times in 59 games.

Then England called again. Despite interest from Serie A and the Bundesliga, he gambled and joined another side at risk of relegation in Sunderland. And the narrative at Hull played out again with the Black Cats as he scored just once.

His displays the US prove he can effectively lead the line but in Europe it’s just not quite happened for him.

 Jozy Altidore celebrates scoring against Panama

Jozy Altidore celebrates scoring against Panama.


As one of the stars of the 2007 U20 World Cup, Szetela was on the verge of emerging as his country’s brightest talent. He scored three goals in the group stage and helped the Americans stay unbeaten despite the presence of Brazil.

He was signed by La Liga side Racing Santander on the back of his performances in Canada and shortly after that made his full national team debut. A year after that, he represented the US at the Olympics and he was making headlines as the next great American hope.

But then the column inches grew smaller as his stint with Racing produced no appearances and a year-long loan spell with Serie B side Brescia proved ultimately as restrictive.

After his failure to shine in Europe, he was back in the MLS with DC United but a major knee injury sidelined him for nearly four years.

To his credit, Szetela has since rebuilt his career as key cog in the New York Cosmos’ midfield but the 30-year-old is yet to add more to his three international appearances.

Danny Szetela in action during the 2008 Olympics

Danny Szetela in action during the 2008 Olympics

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