Getting Stuck In: The Great American Hype Machine

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into The Great American Hype Machine as the nation waits for a world class player to emerge…

I was used to waiting. It’s part of the deal when you interview celebrities. This time, in 2004,  I was waiting to interview a soccer prodigy.  He was supposed to call at 10am. It reached 1pm. I called the Nike representative that set up the interview and asked if she could call him. She rang back an hour later and said he would be calling me in ten minutes. Two more hours went by. I called the Nike rep back again. She apologized and said he was busy playing an intense game of FIFA with friends during some downtime. He finally called at 5pm and didn’t even apologize for making a grown man wait.

You see, Freddy Adu has been making everyone wait his entire professional career. He has shown glimpses of magic with US youth teams but he has been an utter dud everywhere else he has gone. He has played for 13 teams in eight countries over a 12-year career so far. But is it all his fault? He has to take some of the blame for sinking faster than the Titanic. Some say bad attitude, bad practice habits, laziness, no commitment to defence are among some of his problems. My buddy Eric and I theorize about why he continues to move from club-to club and we just assume that he does something behind the scenes to piss off his managers. Some would just say he sucks. But some blame the ‘Great American Hype Machine’.

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Yes, we Americans are guilty of cranking up the Hype Machine to epic levels. We are always waiting for our Messi, our Ronaldo, our Pele – but we just get Adu. When Adu signed a pro contract with MLS side DC United at the age of 14 (debatable), we were all swept up in the Hype Machine with no idea he would be spat out 12 years later. Before he ever kicked a ball professionally, Nike gave him huge money and soft drink company Sierra Mist created a cool ad that debuted during Adu’s first pro game. It featured him with Pele on a soccer field competing for the last bottle of Sierra Mist. The ad sprouted from the American soccer intelligentsia saying Freddy Adu was the “next Pele” (Hype Machine at its worst). Even Pele bought in: “His left foot is fantastic. It’s like Mozart. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer. If he is prepared mentally and physically, nobody will stop him.” Pele may have been an all-time soccer talent, but he’s not an all-time talent evaluator.

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Adu is only 26 (debatable) and mentally and physically he seems shot. Many think his career has finally come to an end because he now plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, a division below MLS. He shows glimpses of being a decent player but when I found this headline the other day I wondered if Freddy was doing ok: “Freddie Adu has gone from ‘next Pele’ to vacuum cleaner salesman on Twitter”.

This brings us to the next great product of the Great American Hype Machine: Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. There is surely no way this kid will be the next Adu, right? Yes, the Machine has churned out hope-to-nope players like Julian Green and Juan Agudelo, and may take down Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, but I think (and I hope) Pulisic is different. Here’s a few reasons why:

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  • He is 17 (not 14) and is being groomed with smarts by one of the best clubs for developing talent in Europe.
  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp loved him when he was Dortmund’s manager and saw him excel with their youth academy and destroy fools with the US U17 squad (20 goals in 34 appearances).
  • He is humble, respectful, hard working and technically sound (rare for an American player).
  • He is strong for his size, doesn’t back down from anyone (see his work against some of the strongest players in Germany).
  • He feels American. With all due respect to Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and the other German-Americans on the US squad, he is from Hershey, Pennsylvania so he feels authentic.
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When Pulisic became the youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga this past spring, I went bonkers. It convinced me that he was for real. No fugazi. Legit. Not just a good American player but considered a great European prospect. I mean, when a headline like this appears in the Daily Mail, I believe the hype: “Liverpool face competition from Real Madrid and Manchester City in pursuit of Borussia Dortmund whizzkid Christian Pulisic.”

Are you kidding me? Pulisic wearing the kit of my beloved Liverpool? An American, dancing around the midfield to You’ll Never Walk Alone on one of those special European nights at Anfield? I just hope the Hype Machine leaves him alone. Because if he does come down with a bad case of Adu-itis, I don’t know how much more waiting I can take.

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Former Chelsea star tips in-demand coach to manage in England

Former Chelsea midfield powerhouse, Michael Ballack, tips Jurgen Klopp to manage in England for ‘the foreseeable future,’ reported by Sport1de.com.

Klopp will leave Borussia Dortmund this summer after seven years at the club. He has guided the German club to Bundesliga titles twice and his side were runners-up to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final.

Ballack, former German captain, highlighted that Klopp speaks English and is successful due to his training techniques.

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Klopp has been linked with the Manchester City job despite Manuel Pellegrini remaining adamant he will be at the club next season.

It would be surprising to see Klopp managing any club without Champions League football, leaving City as the most likely option.

Klopp has not had a good season with Dortmund, who are slumped in seventh place and had been in the relegation zone for parts of the campaign.

Ballack has not commented on when Klopp will be managing in the Premier League. We could well see the German coach take some time out of the game before his next move is decided.

Will Klopp manage in England and when will it be?

United, City and Arsenal to battle for £20m German star – report

Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal are set for a three-way transfer battle for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan this summer, according to the Daily Star.

The 24-year-old German has just one year remaining on his current Dortmund contract and is believed to be keen on a move to the Premier League, with three of the countries top sides interested in securing his services.

Gundogan is valued at £20 million, and City believe they can steal a march on their rivals by offering misfiring striker Edin Dzeko to Dortmund in a swap deal.

New Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel, who will take over from the outgoing Jurgen Klopp this summer, is an admirer of Dzeko’s and that could see Gundogan seal a move to City.

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Arsenal are known to have had long-term interest in the German midfielder who has nine caps for his country, but could be beaten to his signature by one of the Manchester clubs.

United are closing in on a £21.5 million deal, according to Sky Sports, as the race for Gundogan looks set to heat up with the season drawing to a close.

He has struggled with injuries in the past few years but has made 27 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring three goals with four assists.

Klopp is being strongly linked with the Manchester City job and if the Dortmund coach is to move to the Etihad this summer, Gundogan will be expected to follow him.

Where will Ilkay Gundogan move this summer? Who needs him most – Manchester City, Manchester United or Arsenal?

Arsenal linked with summer move for £20m midfield star

Arsenal have been linked with a summer move for £20 million-rated Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, according to The Metro.

Gundogan is being targeted by Arsenal and Manchester United despite reports suggesting Dortmund want to sign him down to a new deal. But a move to the Premier League could be favourable as Dortmund are struggling to make the Champions League, sitting 10th in the Bundesliga.

Arsenal have been linked with a number of Europe’s top rated players, including the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, as manager Arsene Wenger is again expected to dip into the clubs funds this summer in an attempt to further strengthen the team to challenge for the Premier League title.

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Gundogan has made 18 Bundesliga appearances so far this season, scoring three times with three assists, and at 24 could be an ideal replacement for Jack Wilshere, who has been linked with a move away from the club.

The German international already has a wealth of experience and after losing the 2013 Champions League final, will be hungry for success as his time in Germany could be drawing to a close.

Arsenal reportedly had an £18.4 million bid rejected in January but Dortmund’s poor season could see a move develop with the Gunners looking to be a strong force in Europe once again.

Is Ilkay Gundogan the right man for Arsenal and do they need sign the midfielder?

Chelsea to HIJACK Manchester United transfer for £37m star – report

Chelsea are set to make a surprise move for Manchester United target, Mats Hummels, according to Fichajes.net, and would be willing to splash £37 million on the German centre-back.

The World Cup winner has been heavily linked with a move to United this summer after Borussia Dortmund’s disappointing season and his comments regarding his future have done little to quash rumours of a move away.

Louis Van Gaal had seemingly been chasing the centre-back alone but Chelsea will reportedly look to pounce before the Red Devils can seal their man.

Jose Mourinho is apparently looking to secure a world-class centre-back this summer and Hummels is a player that has been previously linked with a Stamford Bridge switch.

Blues captain John Terry signed a one-year contract extension just a few weeks ago but will turn 35 next season. He is now in the twilight years of his career despite plaudits from many in the game after key performances this campaign.

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At just 26, Hummels could be a long-term replacement for the former England captain and would be part of one of the toughest defences in Europe if he makes the move to the London club.

Mourinho is keen to add depth to his squad and Hummels would join Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma as the Chelsea manager’s centre-back options in the long-run, though the Dortmund star would likely be a regular starter with a move to Stamford Bridge.

Would Mats Hummels be a good signing for Chelsea? Do the Blues need him?

Manchester United target rejects claims he is set to sign this summer

Borussia Dortmund and German international centre-back, Mats Hummels has dismissed a report claiming he has a promise to join Manchester United.

The World Cup winner claims the reports were invented, and with his current deal not set to expire until 2017, it doesn’t look like he is planning a move away this summer.

Hummels tweeted: “Just to be clear. This alleged ‘promise’ is simply an invention. And that is saying it nicely.”

Many of Dortmund’s key players have been linked with moves away from the club after their shock demise in the Bundesliga this season. They are sitting 10th, which is a stark contrast to 2011 and 2012 when they beat Bayern Munich to the league title.

Hummels comments will have helped him out with the club’s supporters no end as his side prepare for their crunch league game against rivals Bayern Munich this weekend as they chase down a European spot.

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal reportedly wants to bolster his backline this summer and sees Hummels as an ideal fit.

Will Hummels leave Dortmund this summer? How good a signing would he be for Manchester United?

Could this Dortmund star be on the way to England after advice from Arsenal invincible?

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has advised Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller that he should move away from the German club.

Lehmann was part of the invincible Arsenal team of 2003/04 and went on to make 200 appearances for the Gunners before leaving for VfB Stuttgart in 2008. He also played 61 times for Germany at international level and believes Weidenfeller needs a new challenge.

“Roman Weidenfeller is now actually at the best age for a goalkeeper, but I would advise him that he needs to change,” said Lehmann while talking before Germany’s friendly against Australia on Wednesday.

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Lehmann’s comments could spark a reaction among a number of Premier League clubs, with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham all potentially needing a replacement between the sticks this summer.

Wojciech Szczesny‘s Arsenal future is still in doubt after he was dropped following a 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day and has since been replaced as first-choice goalkeeper by David Ospina, who will need competition should Szczesny depart at the end of this campaign.

Rumours are swelling over where Manchester United shot-stopper David De Gea will be playing his football next season after impressive performances have sparked interest from Real Madrid.

Another ‘keeper who has had a great season is Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, and he could be on the move if Spurs don’t qualify for the Champions League, opening up a void that they will need to fill, with Weidenfeller an ideal replacement.

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Weidenfeller joined Dortmund in 2002 and became a first-team regular in 2003 after Lehmann was signed by the Gunners and the ex-Arsenal man also believes that Weidenfeller’s international career is coming to an end if he doesn’t move on, despite it only starting in November 2013.

“In the national team, the young goalkeepers will move up. In particular, Bernd Leno has recently shown very good performances. But Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Timo Horn are also safe candidates.”

Would Roman Weidenfeller be a good signing for one of the Premier League clubs?

5 tackles, 11 clearances – John Brooks puts in solid display against Dortmund

USA international defender John Brooks put in a blockbuster performance for Hertha Berlin this afternoon as they beat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at the Olympiastadion in the Bundesliga.

He was voted man of the match for his solid performance at the heart of the defence, making more clearances and interceptions than any other player on the pitch.

Centre-back performances in Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund (December 13 2014):

John Brooks stats

[Stats according to whoscored.com]

Hertha Berlin midfielder Peter Niemeyer was the only player on the pitch who made more tackles (7) than John Brooks, while fellow centre-back Jens Hegeler was the only man to block more shots (3).

A faultless performance from the 21-year-old helped lift his side into twelfth position in the table.

The 6′ 4” giant came through the youth system at Hertha Berlin and has become an established member of the first team over the last two years.

It’s a positive sign for the future of the USMNT as John Brooks continues to develop well at the German club and he’s certainly not doing himself any harm if he continues to put in performances of this level.

How good is John Brooks?