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US Players Abroad: Edu, Adu and other Relative Successes

There are many great soccer blogs out there that exceptionally cover the international club careers of US players abroad - the brilliant and perfectly named Yanks Abroad comes to mind.  But if you're just interested in a one-time slice of our some of our current national team players are doing in Europe's top leagues, Mark C. Young has an excellent update on MLS.net.

As excellent as it is to hear that Maurice Edu is finding a serious groove for Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premier League (where he is teammates with Damarcus Beasley), which may cause me already to rewrite my Starting XI predictions, that is not why I bring this up in this space.

I'd rather comment and speculate- since I'll never know first hand- on the cultural adjustment it must take for a young star like Edu, Adu or any other American to be a Fish out of Water in a top Euro league. 

We are generally talking about American players who have been plucked out of the US' humble-but-improving youth system and put onto an ODP team, or at an academy in Bradenton, at an early age, or at the very least, but utter stars for their clubs, high schools and colleges.

(Edu starred at Maryland and was MLS Rookie of the Year in 2007); Adu had a bizarre upbringing even by pro-sports standards, migrating to the U.S. from Ghana, signing on as MLS' chosen one as a teenager, struggling to adjust to MLS life, still getting called to action in Europe, being loaned to a lower-profile club, all the while anchoring his US age group teams and starting to get senior national team exposure.)

Whether or not these young players start in MLS or are recruited to Europe early, they suddenly find themselves in a foreign land, where English is not the dominant language in many cases, and in a COMPLETELY foreign locker room, where up to 10 different languages are being spoken- including the voice of the head coach, which may or not feature a smattering of English OR the host nation's language.

The roster is an assortment of seasoned veterans, domestic and international, all with completely different backgrounds (compared to the relatively homogenous upbringings you may find on an average Division 1 NCAA soccer team- and that is not to misrepresent the many cultures found within the U.S.)

The styles of soccer may or may not mesh wall, which is why club rosters are such ever-turning carousals.

And above all the young phenom, now in a foreign land with a foreign coach and no longer far and away the best player on his roster, is also adjusting to receiving paychecks for the first time, living on his own, and all other aspects of being a professional.

For context on that point, just think of all the leeway we grant young stars in the American leagues, especially the NBA and NFL.  And these are players who generally have had at least a year of college and are still in the states!

All of which is a very long-winded way of stating my amazement when an Edu sticks with it for such a transition and emerges an even better player- or even for when an Adu perseveres with the "underachiever" label for years, but keeps himself positioned as an emerging player with a bright future.  And all the more for a Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey or- my all-time favorite Yankee Abroad- Brad Friedel not only sticks as a club fixture for years but becomes a verifiable star.

It can be a future topic to wish that our best homegrown players didn't have to leave the country to play in a top flight league- and a future topic to dissect the MLS blueprint for slowly building to that point.  But for now let's just nod our heads in appreciation when a young American makes a splash for a Rangers, Fulham or Aston Villa.

The Gentlemen's Game

Rudo Y Cursi

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