Union Notebook: Edu represents MLS all-stars well

Union Notebook: Edu represents MLS all-stars well
August 7, 2014, 6:30 pm
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Maurice Edu played the entire second half in the MLS All-Stars' 2-1 win over Bayern Munich. (USA Today Images)

CHESTER, Pa. -- Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game at Portland’s Providence Park had a little bit of everything.

There were stars for the U.S. national team playing on the MLS all-star squad and stars on Germany’s World Cup champs playing for their opponent, German powerhouse Bayern Munich.

There was New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry putting on a show in the first half in what could be his last all-star performance and Landon Donovan scoring the game-winning goal in what was definitely his last all-star game, as the Los Angeles Galaxy legend announced on Thursday he would retire at the end of the MLS season (see story).

There was even some postgame drama as Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola refused to shake hands with Portland Timbers head man Caleb Porter, who coached the MLS all-stars, because of a couple of dangerous tackles.

For the Philadelphia Union, though, perhaps the best part was seeing one of their own -- Maurice Edu -- play the entire second half at center back to help shut out Bayern Munich and guide MLS to a 2-1 win.

Edu, a late call-up to the team because of injuries, also continued an impressive streak of the Union having a player at every All-Star Game in which they’ve been in MLS (Sebastien Le Toux in 2010, Faryd Mondragon in 2011, Carlos Valdes and Michael Farfan in 2012, and Jack McInerney in 2013).

“Five years in a row we’ve had a Philly Union representative -- that’s big time on Mo’s part,” Union midfielder Amobi Okugo said. “Mo showed well for the team and for the rest of the league. And for them to get a win, it’s great.”

Even before the game started, Edu seemed to be enjoying himself in Portland, where he was all over social media, taking over the league’s snapchat account and winning the inaugural “Vine Olympics,” hosted by the MLS social media team. When it was time to step onto the field, though, it was all business for the Union’s personable star, who made a few nice plays at center back -- the position interim manager Jim Curtin moved him to when he took over.

“You always want to see your teammates do well,” Union defender Sheanon Williams said. “I’m happy for him. I’m happy he got to have that opportunity and he got to experience playing against some of the better players in the world."

As for the game itself, Williams simply enjoyed sitting in front of his TV and watching all of the drama unfold.

“It was definitely entertaining,” he said. “And that’s obviously what they’re going for. So I’m guessing they got what they wanted.”

Welcoming in World Cup players
While there was a lot of star power in Portland this week, PPL Park has also seen an influx of world-renowned players with the recent additions of 2014 World Cup players Carlos Valdes and Rais Mbolhi.

And the Union have welcomed them in with open arms as they prepare for their playoff push with a team that’s suddenly loaded with talent.

“I feel like this is the first time we’ve had a number of notable players at one time on our team,” Okugo said. “Usually it’s just one guy. So it’s good for the young guys. It constantly raises our level from a practice standpoint and a game standpoint.”

Mbohli comes to the Union with the most World Cup experience, starting four games in goal for Algeria to lead them to the knockout round for the first time this summer in Brazil. Valdes played only one game for Colombia but is still a known commodity in Philly, where he starred in 2011 and 2012 alongside a few of the current Union players.

And if you throw in Edu, who suited up for the U.S. national team at the 2010 World Cup, the Union suddenly have three players on their roster that have played in the sport’s biggest tournament.

“Any time you can add experience like that, guys that have been to the World Cup, that’s awesome,” Williams said. “We have three guys that have been in World Cups -- that’s always going to help. They’re definitely welcome additions for us.”

MacMath taking demotion in stride
Although Curtin has already said that Mbolhi will be the Union’s starting goalkeeper, a question still remains of when that will happen.

In the meantime, as Mbolhi tries to get back to 100 percent after a grueling World Cup, Zac MacMath is prepared to remain the team’s starter, just as he’s been since the beginning of the 2012 season.

“A lot of things can happen in this league,” MacMath said. “You always have to be ready. As long as the coach calls my name, I’m ready.”

Still, while handing the demotion like a pro, MacMath did express some doubt about his future in Philly. And the fact that there won’t even be a competition for the starting job once Mbolhi is ready is not something that was especially easy for him to swallow.

“It’s disappointing,” MacMath said. “They told me the same thing -- that when he’s ready and fit that he’ll be the No. 1. And that’s difficult. But at the same time that’s the way it goes. And I’m going to continue to push Andre [Blake] and Rais to the best of their abilities and be ready just in case anything happens.”

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