Following a six-year stint away from Major League Soccer, Maurice Edu thrived.
Edu won a Scottish Premier League title with Rangers FC in 2010, played in the UEFA Champions League and added a huge goal against Spanish League side Valencia. He totaled 96 appearances with Rangers until hitting a speed bump in his career with Stoke City of the English Premier League.
Good memories, but ones that are all in the past.
All of Edu’s focus is now on the Philadelphia Union. Once named the Rookie of the Year with Toronto FC in 2007, the U.S. Men’s National Team pool player is all in with the Union.
Edu’s presence in the midfield was evident in the season-opening 1-1 draw at Portland.
In the big picture, Edu is stoked about his current situation in Major League Soccer. He's even more stoked about the sunny skies and warm temperatures that are scheduled to arrive when the Union open PPL Park this Saturday (4 p.m., purchase tickets) against the New England Revolution.
“You’re not going to win every game,” Edu said. “Every call is not going to go your way. There are going to be some bad days. But it’s about how you react to those things, how you overcome those things and what your response is in those situations. So I think it’s important we stick together as a team. If we stay confident over the course of the season, I really believe we can achieve something special here.”
He’ll get a chance to play in front of the rabid home fans for Saturday’s opener against the New England Revolution at PPL Park.
It’s something Edu has been anxiously anticipating.
“I’m excited,” Edu said. “I had a chance to come here this past summer with Stoke. I got a glimpse of what it’s like. But to actually be playing here – I didn’t play that game; I was injured. To come here now, to play here and be on the home side, I’m excited. I’ve seen some YouTube videos, I’ve gotten all the Tweets about the DOOP song and all that kind of stuff so I’m excited for my first game here. Hopefully, we score a couple goals and it’s a good performance for all of us.”
Edu said that the club will come together by working at it every day. It began in preseason and continued with a draw in a difficult environment at Providence Park against the Timbers.
“It’s all about building chemistry, learning each others’ tendencies, learning each others’ styles and patterns and adjusting to that,” Edu said. “I thought we did that pretty well. Obviously, it’s a long season and as the season goes on, we’ll get even better at that. As a starting point, not just the midfield, I thought the whole team played well. The movement of our strikers, of Jack (McInerney), the way the backs defended. (Goalkeeper) Zac (MacMath) didn’t have too much to do, which is a credit to the way the team is defending in front of him. As a group, it was a great starting point for us.
“Like I said, it’s a long season and making sure we stay consistent, clean up errors we do make. It’s going to happen, obviously. If we can minimize those and keep replicating the positive things we’ve done, and continue to build on those things, then I think it could be a really good season for us.”
Having a player with Edu’s caliber in the midfield automatically makes the Union better. Seeing that come to fruition in the first match only enhanced that point.
“We see him playing as a center midfielder, a box-to-box guy,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “And that’s truly why he’s here. We think he’s a guy that can do all the work behind the boxes, but can also put the ball in the back of the net. That’s the kind of role we see him playing this year and for many years beyond, hopefully.”
Edu’s teammates also like what they see. How could they not?
“His presence has been huge,” said Union captain Brian Carroll. “It raises the level and awareness of our club and also raises the level of our play on the field, and it's been exciting to play alongside of him.”
“He’s a true professional and we’re lucky to have him,” added defender Sheanon Williams. “He’s experienced and understands the situation at all times. He’s tremendously talented and it’s going to be exciting to see him in the lineup all season.”
Down the road, opportunities will surely be there to perform beyond MLS. For now, it’s all Union all the time.
“The process works out that if you do well here, then you get those opportunities,” Edu said when asked the question about a possible call-up to U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann's tune-up matches before June's FIFA World Cup in Brazil. “My focus is on helping this team and winning games here, scoring goals, breaking up plays, doing all the things I know I’m capable of doing. From there, opportunities will come.”
What do you think about the play of Mo Edu in his return to MLS? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com