Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu has settled back in MLS after completing a permanent move from Premier League club Stoke City in January and he is one of many who are desperate to see Major League Soccer thrive.
The 29-year-old Union captain speaks glowingly of the development of MLS and is enjoying his time in Philadelphia.
After joining on loan for the 2014 campaign, Edu returned home to America on a permanent basis in January this year, eight years after being picked first overall in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC.
After earning the MLS Rookie of the Year award in his first season, Edu then moved to Scotland with Rangers in 2008 and also spent time with Stoke City and Turkish club Bursaspor before returning to MLS, something he is happy about.
“I enjoyed my time thoroughly while I was in Europe and for me, when this opportunity presented itself, it was the best choice,” Edu exclusively told MLSGB this week.
“I always had plans to come back here at some point. It probably happened a bit sooner than maybe expected but it was still a welcome opportunity and one I’m glad I chose.
“This is a league that gave me a start in my career and it’s my home country as well so I’ve always wanted to come back here to help continually push this game forward and make it a big deal.”
He is one of many US Men’s National Team stars to make the move stateside in order to help the league develop in recent years, and Edu knows that the right steps are being taken to ensure the growth of US Soccer continues.
“I think the league is heading in the right direction,” he added. “It’s vastly improved compared to where it was when I first started off playing here and I’m enjoying being back.
“The national team has had success over the past couple of World Cups and that’s drawn more attention to the league from a domestic standpoint, but from a quality standpoint, we’ve been able to attract some quality players from abroad as well as getting some players coming in here at their prime ages.
“There are a lot more soccer-specific stadiums being developed across the country. Every club has an academy system, which is good as it’s developing our youth from a young age and getting them involved in a professional atmosphere, which is obviously going to bode well for soccer as a product of this country.”
Edu is fully committed to the game and all aspects surrounding it. He speaks with confidence about the growth of MLS and is willing to do whatever he can to help those around him succeed.
He is vastly experienced despite being just 29, and is always looking to help the young players develop where he can as the leader of the side.
Asked whether he felt more responsibility being a Designated Player and being the team captain, he replied: “I do. Not necessarily just because I have that role but because of my experiences. I’ve been a part of the national team, I’ve played in Europe in competitions like the Champions League.
“I know a lot of young guys here aspire to do the same thing so I try to help them out in any way possible, and try to create a professional and competitive atmosphere here, and that only bodes well for them as individuals and also for this team going forward.”
Edu has made 46 appearances for the US Men’s National Team to date and despite only playing once in 2014 and missing out on the World Cup squad, he is hoping to get more opportunities now he is playing regularly.
Jurgen Klinsmann last called Edu up to a friendly against Mexico last April but with the Gold Cup just around the corner, he may look at recalling the Union captain.
“I just focus on playing,” Edu said after being asked about a possible USMNT recall. “I think if you’re playing well you’ll get opportunities. Obviously if you’re team’s doing well, that’s a direct reflection of how you’re playing also.
“For me right now, I’m just focused on this team. We had a little bit of a rough start at the beginning of the season but we’ve had a couple wins now and we want to continue and push up the table. I think if we do that, and I continue to play well, then there will be opportunities to get back into the national team.”
Edu has been known as a midfielder for most of his career but Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin has been using him at centre-back – a role Edu admits he is still learning.
“I’ve been playing at the back at lot more this season so it’s something that I’m getting used to. For me personally, I just want the opportunity to be successful so if I’m asked to play in the back, in midfield, as a striker or even in goal, I just want the team to do well and to help get us into the playoffs.
“It’s a role that I’m getting more and more comfortable with. I’m still learning bits and pieces here and there and trying to improve but I feel good playing at the back. I think some of my qualities from playing in midfield have helped me and it’s a role that forces you to be more vocal and to continue to be a leader.”
After missing last week’s 2-0 win at the New York Red Bulls through suspension, Edu is looking forward to getting back into the team for the trip to DC United on Saturday night. He knows how important a game that is, saying: “It’s a big one for us but I’m pretty confident.”
The Union’s chances of making the playoffs may be unclear, but there is no hiding the fact that Edu is fully committed to his team and the league. His return to his homeland has made Major League Soccer a better place and his presence will continue to help the development of MLS.