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]

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Nerlens Noel was essentially the beginning of The Process.

Acquired in a draft day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, Noel was the last player remaining of those who were on the team when Brett Brown took over as head coach of the Sixers. Drafted No. 6 overall out of Kentucky, Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL.

That gave Brown the opportunity to work closely with Noel, most notably on his shot.

"Personally, I spent a lot of time with him," Brown said pregame Friday. "To have a whole year where you could help grow his shot. And talk about a total rebuild."

Noel on Thursday was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a top-18 protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. The return doesn't seem great, but there are larger factors at play.

Noel is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. With the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the roster, the center position was (and still is, frankly) crowded. The chances of the Sixers' retaining Noel weren't great. Especially if a team had signed him to an exorbitant offer sheet.

Brown was naturally close to Noel, but understands the business side of the decision.

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said. "[The Mavericks] have brought him in to grow him to try to be a starting center. That does equal a commensurate paycheck. He will be rewarded if that's the way it plays out.

"That wasn't gonna happen here. It wasn't gonna happen here. And so when you really study salary caps, really study design of teams and really study how to grow a program so you're not caught positionally, it was gonna be hard to allocate that amount of money to a five spot."

Brown got some more tough news when he learned No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons won't play this season. A scan taken Thursday revealed that Simmons' Jones fracture, suffered in early October on the last day of training camp, has not fully healed (see story).

Brown, being the consummate optimist, brought up his experience with Noel in is his rookie season of how a player can still develop despite not getting on the court.

"I'm disappointed for lots of reasons that he isn't going to be able to play," Brown said. "I played text tag with him as he was going to the scan. I felt like when your wife is having a baby, pacing around, wondering, 'What's gonna happen? What's the result of the scan? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be?' I don't mean to get too dramatic, but there's a level of anxiety that you wonder, 'What is the result gonna say?' And when it came back with the result, it caught me off guard. It really wasn't something personally I was expecting."

Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo addressed the media Friday to disclose the news on Simmons. He also explained his thinking behind the Noel trade, which mostly hinged on Noel's impending restricted free-agent status (see story).

Brown was sad to see one of his original developmental projects go, but understood the business side of the decision.                     

"I thought he did a really good job," Brown said of Colangelo's press conference. "That is the truth. So it's connected with emotion and reality that we say goodbye to Nerlens."