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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Edu makes history for U.S., Union

When Maurice Edu’s number 7 was put up on the board at the University of Phoenix Stadium Wednesday night, it marked a return from the international wilderness for the Philadelphia Union midfielder, his first cap in 372 days, just over two months away from the open of the World Cup Finals.

Maurice Edu, left, battling with Mexico's Miguel Angel Ponce Wednesday,
made his return to the U.S. Men's National Team after over a year,
the first USMNT appearance for an active Union player. (AP)

Edu played the game’s final 19 minutes as a replacement for Kyle Beckerman in the United States’ 2-2 draw with Mexico in an international friendly. He didn’t do anything to adversely affect his chances of getting on the plane to Brazil in his 46th cap, making a few key interceptions in midfield and helping the U.S. stem the tide of Mexico’s comeback from a two-goal deficit. (If anything, increased uncertainty in the U.S. backline might benefit Edu, who can also play in central defense.)

Edu  also supplied the pass to Clint Dempsey in the 85th minute that allowed Dempsey to play in Eddie Johnson for what should’ve been the game-winner, incorrectly denied by an offside call.

The occasion also marked an important distinction for the Union as their first active player to be capped by the U.S. National Team. They’ve had players called into camps that didn’t make appearances in games (Jack McInerney for the 2013 Gold Cup, Jeff Parke for the 2013 January camp) and players with USMNT caps to their names before arriving in Philadelphia (Chris Albright, Justin Mapp, Brian Carroll, Danny Califf and Conor Casey among them).

But Edu’s appearance was somewhat of a landmark occurrence for the club, a fact that manager John Hackworth mentioned in his Wednesday press conference some 10 hours before kickoff (hence the speculative tenor).

“That would be fantastic for Mo, and we’re extremely proud of him for being in that position,” Hackworth said. “But it would mean something to our club because I think it would signify the fact that we have players now that re getting those opportunities, and to be the first one currently would be important.”

More than most, Hackworth has a personal connection to Edu and the understanding of what an honor it is for him to be back in the national team fold. Hackworth worked with Edu as an assistant for Bob Bradley for several years, including selecting him for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa.

Having a player like that in the fold, in training every week, has been an unmitigated positive.

“He’s already played in a world Cup, and we have a player with a lot of experience and quality,” Hackworth said. “Our staff knows Mo very well, and we’ve been fortunate to be around him in that exact environment. We have all the confidence that he’s ready for it, and hopefully his name will be called at some point and he’ll represent his county tonight and that will be a great reflection on the Union.”

In talking with Edu last Saturday after the draw with Montreal, he took pains to laud the environment within the dressing room that has helped him return to the level needed to get back on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar.

Hackworth echoed that type of collective approach to the success of an individual in Philly.

“I feel really fortunate that we have a player like Mo on our roster, and being able to coach him is truly and honor. But I think it’s a team effort,” Hackworth said. “I’m very thankful that Mo is humble about the opportunity and really appreciates the fact that his teammates deserve a lot of credit for this opportunity. We always talk about if one guy in our locker room every gets an accolade or recognition or a call-up, it means there are so many guys behind him that have supported him in that effort. It’s just very natural. It’s nice when a guy recognizes that and publicly acknowledges that.”

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