Union unveil prized signing Maurice Edu

Union unveil prized signing Maurice Edu
January 28, 2014, 5:00 pm
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Maurice Edu was a former No. 1 overall pick and MLS Rookie of the Year for Toronto FC in 2007. (AP)

It’s been a long and active offseason for the transitioning Union.

On Tuesday at YSC Academy, all that hard work and struggle came to fruition as the club unveiled their most-prized offseason acquisition, Maurice Edu.

“When news first broke about the possibility of me coming here, the reaction on Twitter and social media was unbelievable,” said Edu, who finalized the deal in Philadelphia last night. “It made me excited. If there was any question or any hesitation, that was the extra push I needed to make sure that I did come here.”

Edu, 27, is a former first overall selection by Toronto FC in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft and arguably the Union’s biggest signing ever. He earned European attention after winning MLS Rookie of the Year and working his way into the U.S. national team picture.

But after six years abroad with Rangers FC, Stoke City and Bursaspor, the midfielder is back with MLS and looking to help push the American game, as well as get the Union into the playoffs.

“I think the league has made tremendous progress since I came in,” said Edu, who has 45 caps with the USMNT. “I think it’s headed in the right direction and I’m excited to be a part of that -- to help further that progression and just be an ambassador in some ways. I’ve been able to go overseas and see what that’s like. And I’m excited to come back home to MLS and hope to really move this game forward.”

The Union didn’t just get a quality player in Edu, they got a motivated one. In two seasons with Stoke City, Edu saw the field only once -- a fact that saw him fall out of favor with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Now, forgotten Edu is looking to put himself back on the USMNT map.

“It’s always frustrating as a player when you don’t play,” he said. “In this game, you have to be mentally tough because it’s just full of ups and downs. One day you can be high, the next day, you can be on the worst spell of your career. So for me, it’s just about trying to maintain a level head, don’t get too down when you hit a low, and when you’re on a high, just make sure you stay level-headed and maintain some composure and a sense of humbleness.

“I’m here in Philadelphia now. That’s all behind me. I’m just looking forward to a new beginning here.”

Edu noted that his struggles with Stoke City forced him to lose focus on his game. He’s looking at his time with the Union as a chance to have fun and find career success once again.

“It’s a new experience and I just want to get back to enjoying the game,” Edu said. “The past couple of years have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of worries, a lot of concerns. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I probably should have been, so I just want to get back to enjoying it, playing with a smile on my face, winning games, scoring goals and enjoying the fans.”

To make that happen, Union manager John Hackworth has plans to use Edu in a major way. Though Edu is known primarily as a defensive midfielder, he is set to play box-to-box in Hackworth’s system, pushing the offense and working equally on both sides of the ball.

“We see him playing as a center midfielder, a box-to-box guy,” Hackworth said. “He’s already mentioned that he wants to hear that 'Doop' song, and we talked about that at dinner last night. That’s truly the reason that he’s here because we think he can be a guy who can do all the work between the boxes and also put the ball in the back of the net.”

Although Tuesday was a major roster victory for the Union, acquiring Edu wasn’t an easy process. The club had to negotiate a one-year loan with an option to buy between Stoke City and MLS and had to move defender Jeff Parke to DC United in order to gain access to the top spot in MLS Allocation Order.

“Anytime you go through a major acquisition of a player, especially bringing a national team player back from Europe, there are so many things that have to happen right for it actually to come to reality,” Hackworth said. “You just have to be patient. You have to trust the people and I think the league did a really good job working with us.”

Yet, regardless of the stressful journey and tough loan process, Edu has turned the page and is ready to contribute in MLS once again.

“I had a chance earlier to have a conversation with John and [Union CEO & Operating Partner] Nick [Sakiewicz], and the thing I noticed the most is that they’re both very passionate about this club and they have a clear vision of where they want to take it,” Edu said. “And I’m excited to come back here and be a part of that and help this club go forward and in the right direction.”