2010 World Cup Player Profile: Maurice Edu, Insurance In The United States Midfield

Why You’ll Like Him

Edu has soccer instincts that cannot be taught.

Since turning pro, Maurice Edu has nine goals in 65 matches and there are maybe one or two that would be considered "pretty." He continually finds himself in the right place at the right time and while that can be written off as luck, when it happens enough time, you have to label it instinct. That’s what Edu has and it extends to the defensive aspect of his game.

The Fontana, California native is most known for his strength in the tackle and ability to cover ground in the center of the field. Playing as a central midfielder, Edu can act as a shield in front of the back line with his defensive prowess and while he does have good speed, his instinct and ability to read the game allow him to cover more ground than he should. His instincts also allow him to play center back in a pinch, something that is always nice to have in your back pocket if necessary.

Why You’ll Hate Him

A very inexperienced player, you aren’t 100% sure what you’re going to get from Edu.

As mentioned above, Edu has a grand total of 65 matches under his belt as a professional. When you add in six U-23 national team caps and 13 for the senior team, you get a total of 84 matches. That’s an incredibly small amount for a player competing for a starting spot in the World Cup on a team that expects to go through to the knock out stages.

When you have a player with such inexperience, you’re not quite sure how they’re going to react to the shining lights of the World Cup. In a tournament where the smallest of mistakes can make the difference, inexperience is a possible killer. Edu has played in a few Old Firm matches and the 2008 Summer Olympics so he’s played with pressure, but he hasn’t seen much at the senior international level and that has to be a concern.

Fact Sheet

Age: 24 (4/18/1986)

Position: Midfielder

Club Teams: Rangers (2008-present), Toronto FC (2007-2008)

National Team Debut: October 17, 2007 vs. Switzerland

Caps: 13

World Cups: None

Club World

Like many American soccer players, Edu got his start playing at the collegiate level. The midfielder played at the University of Maryland for three years, earning All-American honors in his junior season. When he went pro, Edu signed with MLS as a Generation Adidas player and was selected first overall by Toronto FC in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.

It didn’t take long for Edu to make an impact in Toronto, playing in 25 matches and scoring four goals en route to winning 2007 MLS Rookie of the Year. Just a few months into his second season, Edu had done enough to draw interest from several European clubs, one of which was Glasgow Rangers, with whom he signed in August of 2008.

Unlike in Toronto where he found a spot in the starting XI from the beginning, Edu struggled initially in Scotland, but after half of a season with the reserves, a suspension to two other players gave Edu the chance to play. Edu did impress enough to start the final nine league matches of his first season with Rangers, but he injured his knee in the final league match for the 2008-2009 Scottish Premier League Champions Rangers side.

After dealing with a long rehab, Edu finally returned to the field just before the 2010 New Year. He slowly worked himself back into form and the high point of his season came on February 28, when he scored a 93rd minute winner versus Celtic that put a lock on another Rangers league title versus their hated rivals.

National Team

The first time Edu put on the United States shirt was on October 17, 2007, when he played versus Switzerland and in his next international match he picked up an assist on the game-winning goal.

Normally a midfielder, Edu was used at a center back for the United States in the 2008 Olympics, a tournament in which Edu started all three matches. Edu even moved forward from his center back spot to draw a penalty, which was almost enough to send the States to the knockout stages.

In his 13th senior international match, Edu picked up his first goal. In a May 25, 2010 friendly versus the Czech Republic, Edu did what he did best. He snuck into the box and In the midst of a scramble for the ball, got enough of a toe on it to push it past the line.

What to Look For

One spot in the United States’ central midfield is settled with Michael Bradley slotting in there, but the other spot is very much up for grabs and Edu is a candidate for the spot. His ability to play box-to-box complements Bradley well and gives the Yanks flexibility. It also gives them another big body in the center of the field to make things difficult on opponents.

Whether Edu starts or not for the USA is very much dependent on his ability to maintain and move the ball from the back to the forwards. He is not the best on the ball in tight spaces and while his vision is improving, Edu does not have the greatest touch. This does make him a liability at times in giving the ball away and making it difficult to hold possession when necessary.

What is likely to be Edu’s role is one of a deeper lying midfielder, allowing Bradley to push higher up field. His responsibility will be to help the back line and make it difficult for opposing midfielders to run at the center backs. From there, he only needs to make the simple pass out of the back and won’t be counted on to hold the ball. It all starts with his defensive work and from there, anything beyond not giving the ball away is gravy. That gravy could come on a set piece or ugly play when the sneaky Edu finds his way into the box and as so often happens with him, the ball finds him and then finds the net.

Ryan Rosenblatt is more main course than gravy at Set Piece Analysts.  He will be contribution to SB Nation Soccer's coverage of the 2010 World Cup.

For more World Cup coverage, visit the Dirty Tackle blog from our partners at Yahoo!

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