Counterattack: Should Eddie Johnson and/or Freddy Adu Have Come Back To MLS Instead Of Joining Aris?

The moves of the two Americans is up for debate in the latest "Counterattack."
This week, Fulham and Benfica, respectively, loaned out-of-sorts Americans Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu to Aris. Each one has earned caps on the United States National Team but have since fallen out of favor.

Johnson and Adu will attempt to find their form at the Greek Club in hopes of making the U.S.'s World Cup roster.'s Greg Lalas and Noah Davis debate whether the loans were a good move.

Greg Lalas: I say yes and no, if that's allowed here. Adu should've come back; Johnson made a good move.

Noah Davis: I like that they both stayed abroad. Whether it's true or not, returning to MLS looks like they've been defeated by Europe.

Lalas: That's true, it does look that way, but it doesn't mean that's the case.

Here's my thinking on EJ: He needs to play somewhere out of the limelight for a little while, get kicked around in a difficult environment, where he is very far out of his comfort zone. A place where he doesn't speak the local language or his manager's language. He will have to do all his talking with his play.

It reminds me of when he was shipped off to Kansas City by Dallas. That move seemed to ignite him.

Davis: Do they not speak English in Kansas City?

Lalas: Not when their mouths are full of barbecue from Arthur Bryant's.

Davis: It's not as though he found a comfort zone in England, either.

Lalas: In northern Greece, he will have prove himself in a way he's not accustomed to. The league is not glamorous. It's just football. Just a job.

Davis: Playing Devil's advocate -- I agree this is a good move -- but what makes you think he won't crumble under the pressure in Greece?

Lalas: Because there is less pressure. Less pressure to become the next Clint Dempsey. Less pressure to become the next Dwight Yorke. Less pressure to be anything except a soccer player. Score goals, learn the game. And that's why the specific move to Aris is such a good one.

Davis: At 25, he's running out of time to learn the game. And if this league is so rough and tumble as you say, where exactly is he going to learn?

Lalas: In some ways, yes. In some ways, no. I don't think he ever took the time to learn the game when he was younger. He relied on his natural abilities.

It's a rough league, but Aris still tries to play football. They won 3-0 away to Atromitos this week, by the way. It's the most international team in Greece, with loads of South Americans.

Davis: And an Argentine manager.

Lalas: Hector Cuper has lots of experience and lots of sway. He wouldn't say yes to a player -- let alone, an American -- unless he felt like he could use him.

Saying that, Johnson's going to have to be very good to unseat Javier Campora up top.

Basically, I think that Aris, in particular, is a good landing place for him, where he can learn the game from an experienced manager Cuper who knows how to mesh many nationalities in one squad.

And I think the out-of-the-spotlight nature of the Greek League -- though still a decent level -- will relieve some of the pressure he felt after moving to the EPL.

Davis: Fair enough. So we're agreed that Aris is good for Eddie.

Here's why I think it's also a good move for Freddy: He needs two things: 1) Improved skills. 2) A new level of maturity. (And possibly a mute button on that Twitter feed, but we'll get there another time.)

We've established that he can improve his skills at Aris. It's not a stretch to think that the presence of EJ will help him develop into a more mature player as well

I think it is. How is Johnson, a guy who needs to mature and learn the game himself, going to help Adu do that?

Davis: Because he's been through this before. He's basically been run out of England.

Lalas: Who was run out of England? Freddy?

Davis: EJ.

Lalas: Not really. He was just deemed surplus goods. Sure, if he were performing better, they wouldn't have shipped him down to Greece, but at the same time, he just didn't fit. And when EJ went on loan last year at Cardiff, he did pretty well.

Davis: And then came back and couldn't find the field.

Lalas: Right. But Freddy hasn't found the field with the mother team or when on loan. Essentially, three teams have now said he doesn't have anything they're interested in.

But he and EJ should be able to help each other out.

Lalas: Sure, if only because they speak English together. And there's a random Irish teenager on Aris's squad, too.

Davis: They can focus on football.

Lalas: I'm not sure Freddy can focus on the game.

Davis: Well, if he can't focus on it in Greece, he sure as hell won't be able to focus on it in the U.S.

Lalas: I disagree. He's proven before that he can succeed here. In some way, he actually does better when he feels like he's at the center of things. At Benfica, at Monaco, at Belenenses, he was never a focal point for the team.

Davis: But no one in MLS was going to build a team around him.

Lalas: When the spotlight is on him, he performs. It's why he always seems to do well for the youth national teams.

No one will do build a team around him, true. But the (uninformed) public still know him and think he's something. You know as well as I do that non-soccer geeks ask about him all the time.

Well, a lot of soccer geeks still think he deserves a chance on the National Team.

I see what you're saying about focus, but I think returning to the U.S. would shatter whatever confidence he has left.

Lalas: If his confidence isn't shattered already by his lack of playing time and his continual jettisoning, then the kid is even more oblivious and self-absorbed than we all imagined.

I think at team like Dallas or, even better, Philly, he'd do great. Yes, I said Philly, because no one got Freddy to play better than Peter Nowak. Not that Nowak would choose to go through the circus again.

Davis: How would the Sons of Ben feel?

Lalas: The SOBs might have an issue with it. But imagine if Peter Nowak took him by the scruff of the neck and got him playing the way we all believe he can.

Davis: Well, now we'll never have that chance.

Lalas: Seriously, I think I'm going to start a Freddy-to-Philly campaign.

Davis: You're a couple weeks too late. He's already in a fine spot in Greece. (But it would be fun.)

Lalas: True. Maybe Cuper can play the Nowak role. Personally, I hope so, because I still believe Adu has the natural talent to be very good. Now he needs to stop twittering and just play.

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