Greatest goal never scored: Maurice Edu talks denied World Cup goal on four-year anniversary

Four year anniversary of Mo Edu's recalled World Cup goal

Whenever Union midfielder Maurice Edu thinks about it today, all he can do is laugh.

But four years ago it was far from a laughing matter.

Among the most memorable plays of Edu’s career was the goal he scored against Slovenia in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and if you watch the tape you could see why. Edu looked to have scored the game winner in what would have been a dramatic come-from-behind victory for the United States.

However, the goal was questionably called back and to this day, Malian match official, Koman Coulibaly has yet to explain why.

Instead, the United States settled for a 2-2 draw.

In lore, the moment turns four years old this Wednesday.

For Edu, it still ranks among the top five goals he’s ever scored – even if it wasn’t made official.

“I don’t know man, I don’t know what [the referee] was looking at,” Edu recalled for philadelphiaunion.com. “I found myself in the right place at the right time and if you notice, they [Slovenia] are grabbing us, pulling at our jerseys, everything. But I managed to get through, and get a good hit on the ball and it went in. First thing I’m thinking is that this is the moment; this is every kid’s dream.”

“And then I hear the whistle…”

The lead up to Maurice Edu getting a chance to represent his country came on the heels of a spectacular club season with Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League. Edu highlighted a strong 2009-10 campaign with a second half stoppage time goal against SPL rivals Celtic FC that secured Rangers the title that season.  

The combination of that and successful appearances for the U.S. men’s national team during qualifying secured Edu a spot on then coach Bob Bradley’s 23-man roster.

“I knew to get to that stage, I had to do well for both club and country,” Edu said. “I’ve always known that if I do what I need to do well here it will translate. It’s what I work hard for and when my cell phone rang and it was U.S. Soccer on the other end, I felt very blessed to come in and have that opportunity to play for my country on the biggest stage.”

Against Slovenia, Edu entered as a second half substitution, but said he knew at the half – a half in which the U.S. trailed, 2-0 – that he could make an appearance. He also noted that despite being down on the scoreboard, spirits were high heading into that second frame.

“Even at halftime you could sense there was a lot of confidence in the locker room,” recalled Edu. “We all felt like we were still in the game. Warming up [at the half] all I was focused on was being prepared to come in and make an impact.”

U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan scores; 2-1 Slovenia...

“Getting that first goal got us off on the right foot,” said Edu.

Coach’s son Michael Bradley contorts his body to push a ball into the Slovenian net, 2-2 all...

“Then we get that second goal and you could just see how confident everyone was,” Edu continued. “On my play, it just so happens we get a free kick and to be honest I didn’t even plan on going into the box to make a play on it because it was already so crowded. But I decide to crash the area late when I see the path of the ball and it goes in. I was beyond happy. And then I hear the whistle.”

The whistle that halted what was supposed to be a defining moment – quickly turned into an unforgettable instance – if not for the most unfortunate reason.

“I just remember being shocked. I knew I wasn’t offsides and I didn’t foul anyone, so I just kept asking ‘what’s the call, what’s the call,” said Edu. “The referee, or any of the other officials didn’t have an answer for us.”

Donovan echoed Edu’s sentiment telling media postgame:

"I'm a little gutted to be honest," Donovan said. "I don't know how they stole that last goal from us. ... I'm not sure what the call was. He (the referee) wouldn't tell us what the call was."

Worst part of the whole ordeal was that in addition to denying the U.S. Edu’s goal, he also denied the Americans a notable piece of World Cup soccer history. In the 80-year history of the tournament, no nation had ever rallied from a two-goal deficit at the half to win a World Cup match.

Gone…and quite honestly? Forgotten.

A lot has happened in the career of Maurice Edu since that night in Ellis Park, South Africa. After Rangers crumbled under administration woes, Edu had a stint in the English Premier League with Stoke City FC before being announced as the face of the Philadelphia Union in February. Edu was on the cusp of making the U.S.’ World Cup roster this year, but was one of seven players released from the preliminary 30-man roster in late May.

For Edu, it’s about plugging away and doing all the things to remain relevant in the national team eye; and vying for another chance to make a bit of history. He says he doesn’t think about that night anymore.”

But it’s impossible to imagine he doesn’t think about what was.

“No, honestly I don’t think about it anymore,” said Edu. “It was four years ago and since then I have just used it as motivation. I have seen that it is possible to play at the highest level. Did I score? Yeah, I think so. But I can’t worry about it. I got to live what is every kid’s dream that plays soccer. And for that I am grateful and quite honestly content.”

Do you remember that moment? What were your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com