Union finally get their man -- now, who is Maurice Edu, anyway?

Union finally get their man -- now, who is Maurice Edu, anyway?

Maurice Edu will be unveiled Tuesday as the newest member of the Philadelphia Union.

After weeks of rumor, vague "Internet reports" and a likely disagreement with Major League Soccer over money,  the Philadelphia Union finally got their man.

Yes, the team finally finished off the deal for 27-year-old midfielder Maurice (or "Mo") Edu on Monday, and marked it by unveiling a surprisingly awesome Twitter hashtag, #MOTownPhilly.  Edu will be unveiled today at 12:30 p.m. at the team's training facility in Wayne (it will be aired live online at this link). Expect him to hold up a jersey, wear a scarf, and everyone will look very excited.

In typical MLS fashion, the terms of the deal were not disclosed. But according to reports, the salary is far less than the $1.2 million that was initially rumored. And the deal is actually a one-year loan from Stoke City (England) with an option to buy at the end. If you're not versed in soccer player movement, loans are actually very common worldwide. MLS has historically stayed away from acquiring players on loan, unless there is an option to buy at the end of the deal.

In this case, it's a perfect deal for the Union. They get a solid player to anchor the midfield, and presumably, will buy him permanently at year's end. But should the move fail miserably (unlikely), or should Edu play well enough that he dreams of a return to Europe at year's end, the Union aren't weighed down by a long contract.

Combine this move with the signing of Argentine midfielder Cristian Maidana, and what seems like a looming deal with French midfielder Vincent Nogeira, and the Union have drastically changed their midfield.

That's all great, but we know what you really want: To sound smart around your coworkers and friends when they ask "Did the Union just sign that Adu guy again? I thought he sucked?" So, a few things you should know about Maurice Edu:

  • At 27, Edu is by no means washed up. There was a time when he was a regular call-up to the United States men's national team. He's well off the radar for this year's World Cup squad, but could find his way back with a strong season.
  • Edu is pretty active on the Twitters (@MauriceEdu), and on Instagram, if you're into that sorta thing.
  • Edu is (technically) still property of Stoke City in England, but he was most recently on loan to Bursaspor of Turkey. He played 13 games at Bursaspor after barely getting a sniff at Stoke. His European career started strongly with storied Scottish side Rangers.
  • Edu has actually played at PPL Park before. He started and played one half for the U.S. in a completely forgettable 0-0 draw with Colombia in 2010 (I was there and am still waiting for a refund check).
  • Edu is primarily a holding (or defensive) midfielder. He has even played fullback at times, but expect him to play in his natural position for the Union. What that means for captain and fellow defensive midfielder Brian Carroll is anyone's guess, although there are formations that would allow both of them to play together. Plus, talent-wise, there is no argument that Edu is more skilled than most MLS midfielders. So in theory, he could be asked to play a little higher on the field.
  • Before all these signings, John Hackworth had expressed a desire to play more of a 4-3-3 formation this year (4 defenders, 3 midfielders, 3 forwards). With Maidana, Edu and Nogueira, I'm not sure how that happens, unless the three new players fill the midfield. And if that does happen, I'd have to think Carroll gets squeezed out, unless Maidana or Nogueira play as part of the three-man front line.
  • All of this guessing is really pointless until later in preseason (much of which takes place in secret). Camp began Monday in Wayne, and moves to Florida for most of February.
  • Edu not only had a solid playing career in Scotland, he also ended up on one of the United Kingdom's notorious front pages in a "WAG" (wives and girlfriends) scandal in 2012. (The things you find on Google at 1 a.m.)
  • The highlight of his National Team career so far was a goal that wasn't really a goal in the 2010 World Cup.
  • Edu was actually the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2007 with Toronto FC.
  • There's no confirmation yet what uniform number Edu will wear. He has worn No. 10 (University of Maryland), No. 6 (Toronto FC), No. 2 (Rangers), No. 7 (Rangers and USMNT), and No. 13 (Stoke City). With the Union, 10 is available, 2 is not really available (Carlos Valdes) and 6, 7 and 13 are not available (Conor Casey, Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud, respectively). Some Union fans are hoping he chooses No. 11, meaning a simple Letter "E" decal could fix all those Freddy Adu jerseys. (UPDATE: Union writer Kevin Kinkead with some news on that front Tuesday morning.)

  • Finally, a few highlights so you can tell your friends that you are a Maurice Edu expert:

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/OcCnzqZIljI width=620 height=349]

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.