When the Portland Timbers beat star studded LA Galaxy 5-2 at their Providence Park to keep their playoff hopes alive, the man that stole the show was 25 year old forward Fanendo ADI.
ADI finished regular season with 16 goals, more than any other player on the Timbers squad and surprising more than 70% of the MLS. He is the only Timber on the 45 man top scorers list.
The popularity of football has been on the rise in the USA after they hosted the 1994 World Cup on home soil and now in 2015, club football has found its peak with so many big names signing to MLS teams even while still in their career prime – Giovinco, Drogba, Villa, Gerrard, Lampard, Kaka etc. This means the competition is getting better, stronger and faster.
The backbone of the transformation is their initiative of borrowing from already established North American sport leagues like the NFL (American football), NBA (basketball) and the MLB (baseball).
This helped format the sport in the American way, with playoffs and also the economics approach to player and club ownership and designation.
The MLS has definitely changed since its inaugural season in 1996 (whether we believe it or not), it’s more global now, and that’s in due part to the importation of foreign stars as a way to inject new blood into the league.
One of the most improved player in the league this season is Portland Timbers’ 9 Fanendo ADI whose story from the streets of Nigeria to the top of a developing big league is captivating fans and football enthusiasts.
ADI started his career with local club Lagos Islanders at around age 16, then in 2009 his first major move followed as he transferred to one of the ‘unknown’ leagues of Eastern Europe – like most players from Nigeria.
As a player from a developing country like Nigeria, he went through the natural stages of going professional. First, he played in the local Nigeria leagues where players are given foundational lessons on the importance of strength in the game.
His move to Slovakia followed and there he was taught the basics and tactics of being a technical striker. After that, he headed to Copenhagen in Denmark where was played uniquely as a ‘dirty ball’ striker i.e.
He is given the task of finishing for goal and nothing more. And finally he ended up in Portland where is given the role of leading the team’s attack from up top based on the gathered experiences he has.
Bouncing around early in his career is what makes ADI a unique striker. In the match against LA in particular, he showed why with his ‘one-touch while shielding the defender then a reverse turn shot to the low corner of goal’ – combination of strength, technicality and finishing.
As a developing league, the MLS offers players a new place to find themselves. Obafemi Martins for example, a world class striker who played for Inter Milan and Newcastle landed in Seattle after years of almost losing his touch and that shows what playing in a developing global league can do to a player.
In this league, players are opportuned to learn field adaptability regardless of their skill level – and that prepares them for international competition. Even Pirlo – now with New York City FC – is still being called up to the Italian national team regardless of his age and current club.
This observation can help the national team in a number of ways. Looking at newer players in even newer global leagues will help create a better understanding of new opponents.
ADI has shown what the MLS can do to a striker and I believe bringing in players like himself in the national team rotation will infuse that new blood in attack to our constantly improving style of play.
The writer of this article Conrad Osei-Bonsu is a Communication and film Studies student at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He is an expert on MLS and African Football.
Watch out for his NEXT articles on www.footballnaija.com.ng
The impact of foreign players in the local league (part 2)
Youth development through exposure (part 3)