Maurice Edu has been a polarizing figure for the Philadelphia Union, due to no fault of his own.
Edu was brought in from Stoke City to the Philadelphia Union under the John Hackworth regime to play as a central defensive midfielder in 2014 as a Designated Player. Edu did a good job in the midfield but when Hackworth was fired, Jim Curtin took over and moved Edu to central defense due to the ineffectiveness of the back line at the time. Edu played central defense (which isn’t his actual position) at an All-Star level but the plan was always to move him back into the midfield.
The decline began with surgery for a sports hernia in the offseason. Sports hernia surgery generally involves a pretty straightforward return given that the rehab process goes off without a hitch. That wasn’t the case here as Edu suffered a fracture in his left leg while attempting to rehab during the preseason.
Initially, the team thought that Edu’s fracture was just a stress fracture that would allow him to return to the team during the first month of the season. It was a huge blow for the Philadelphia Union and that was recognized by head coach Jim Curtin. Curtin wanted to use Edu in a number six role that would allow him to be a midfield destroyer. When asked about the injury, Curtin said,
"“It’s been a frustrating process, I think, for everybody involved in terms of finding a diagnosis,” Curtin said. “A lot of things don’t show up on MRIs or bone scans. We finally got to the bottom of it though, and the X-ray revealed there was a fracture there.“It’s a big blow to a lot of the foundation that we planned to do this year in terms of having him at the No. 6 role.”"
With the roster reshape that took place during the offseason, it was expected that Edu would play a large role within the team. Edu was determined to make it back this season and he got started in the rehab process.
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During the beginning of the season, it was almost forgotten that Edu was out with the Philadelphia Union flying high, even reaching the top of the Eastern Conference. When Vincent Nogueira departed and the wheels began to fall off for the team fans began to pine for Edu.
Edu returning would’ve essentially been a free transfer for the Philadelphia Union if he was able to make it back during the season. Talking to Edu during the season, it was clear that he was motivated to make it back to help this team and contribute for them in their second ever playoff appearance.
Edu slogged through the rehab process and was able to return to full training with the team about a month ago. At that point, it looked like he would be able to contribute in a big way going down the stretch for the Philadelphia Union.
He then continued the road to match sharpness by making three appearances for Bethlehem Steel spanning 181 minutes. The Philadelphia Union took his rehab slowly but he was seemingly in line to start the regular season finale against the New York Redbulls.
Setbacks for Mo:
Getting prepared for the Redbulls match, Edu went down and had to be stretchered off the field. He was later diagnosed with a broken left fibula. That’s an injury to the same leg that he already had the fracture in. It’s unfortunate for Edu who has spent the entire season working hard to return to action that he’ll now be sidelined indefinitely.
The reality of this injury is that it could affect his career as a whole. Two injuries to the same leg will be tough to recover from and could potentially end his career. While I think that Edu will work hard to return we’ve reached the point where questions will be asked about if his body is up to the task. For his sake, hopefully, it can be done.
Not having Edu next season would throw a serious wrench in the Philadelphia Union’s plans with Tranquillo Barnetta returning to Switzerland and Brian Carroll getting close to the day that he hangs up his cleats. The projected midfield without signings would likely be some combination of Warren Crevalle, Alejandro Bedoya, Roland Alberg, and Edu. With Edu essentially out of the picture, the Philadelphia Union will likely have to make a signing to properly staff the midfield.
Because of his contract status, Edu was someone that some fans wanted to move on from but at full strength, he’s one of the best in the league in his position. There isn’t much clarity about his contract situation due to the lack of transparency in MLS finances but Edu signed a multi-year extension in 2015. Next season could be his last season in Philadelphia and if he isn’t able to appear because of injuries it could be a sad way to go out.
During his career, Edu has been hampered with injuries. It first began at Rangers but when he moved to Stoke City, injuries cost Edu his shot to make an impact. Luckily for us, that led to him coming to Philadelphia but the same injuries are costing him significant time.
Edu’s career is becoming a “What if?” and that’s not how any athlete wants to be remembered. He’s a leader in the locker room and even stayed with the team to sit on the bench during their final game of the season against the Red Bulls.
Not every athlete does things like that when they’re injured but not every athlete is Maurice Edu. He has given his all for the club but his rough ride over these past few seasons isn’t entirely his fault. I hope that he can return and reach his prior levels of play but at this point, Edu just needs to take it slow. It will be a long road back but I’m sure Edu’s up for it.