Will Edu be the piece that helps lift Union to playoffs?

Posted: January 30, 2014

MAURICE EDU has never played a game in PPL Park, but he has seen up close how Union fans can raise the level of electricity in the "Power Plant" for their MLS franchise.

Edu, a former MLS Rookie of the Year who spent the previous 6 years playing in Europe, was a member of Stoke City last July when the English Premier League Club came to Chester for an international friendly.

Although he was injured, Edu watched from club box. He was particularly intrigued by energy generated by "Doop" - the Union's unofficial theme song.

"You could see the passion [Union] fans have for this team," said Edu, the midfielder who joined the team yesterday on a 1-year transfer from Stoke City with the option to purchase. "The way they get behind this team is unbelievable.

"I'm excited for the first home game, walking out of the tunnel and looking around at all the fans. Actually, I most excited for the first goal, so I can hear that 'Doop' song. That'll be good."

Edu's signing on the day the Union opened training camp for the 2014 season at YSC Sports ended a complicated saga that involved the Union, Edu, Stoke City and, perhaps most importantly, the MLS office.

The deal had been rumored for weeks but appeared to be hung up by the league office, which must approve all contracts.

"There were four interested parties in this, and to find a win-win-win scenario for four different parties was very difficult," Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said. "There had been a lot of frustration."

With all issues resolved, the question now is what does the Union have in Edu, 27, a defensive midfielder who was selected first overall by Toronto FC in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.

At the top end, the Union hopes for the resurrection of the player who has earned 45 caps for the U.S. national team, played in the 2010 World Cup and made more than 100 appearances for Rangers, of the Scottish Premier League, before the franchise liquidated after 2011-12 season.

That Edu is a welcome addition to a Union club that ran into serious glitches the last two seasons after the making the playoffs in the second cannot be discounted. What cannot be discounted, however, is that Edu has not really been around since 2011.

Edu called it a "dream come true" to sign with a Premier League club such as Stoke in 2012. In reality, it's been a nightmare.

In 1 1/2 seasons in the Premier League, Edu played a grand total of 10 minutes for Stoke. He was loaned to Bursaspor, of the Turkish Super Lig, for the end of the 2012-13 season, making 12 appearances.

The inactivity has also cost Edu his spot as a regular on Team USA. With selection for the 2014 World Cup just around the corner, Edu evidently is is counting on a slim chance that regular playing time with the Union will get him back in the mix for the trip to Brazil.

That Edu would be as useful to the Union as Freddy Adu was during his disastrous stay in Philadelphia.

"The past couple of years have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of worries and concerns," said Edu, who infamously had a goal disallowed against Slovenia at the 2010 World Cup for a violation that no one has yet seen. "Sometimes your focus can waver and you worry about things you maybe shouldn't.

"Now, I just want to get back to enjoying the game again and helping this team be successful."

After an offseason during which the Union was slow to get out of the gate, the franchise has aggressively made moves to improve in the past 2 weeks.

Argentine midfielder Cristian "Chaco" Maidana just joined the team, and the Union is said to be close to a deal for French midfielder Vincent Nogueira, of Sochaux, in Ligue 1. The Union also traded up to the top spot in this year's draft to select University of Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Putting things together falls to John Hackworth, and it's fair to say his status to remain as manager might depend on earning an expected playoff bid in 2014.

It cannot be said enough that this is the Union's fifth season. The foundation should be laid, and, now, the fair expectations are that this team should make the playoffs and possibly make some noise in the postseason.

Edu's acquisition and how it impacts the Union will be closely scrutinized.

"I think there is a lot of potential on this team," he said. "They are very confident in the ability of this team and the staff that is here.

"With all things going in the right direction, fingers crossed, I think it could be a really positive and good season for everyone involved."


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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