STANFORD, Calif. – The way Maurice Edu sees it, FIFA owes him a goal.
Four years ago, the then-Rangers midfielder was central to the biggest controversy of the US national team’s 2010 World Cup. In the 85th minute against Slovenia in Johannesburg, Edu volleyed in the go-ahead goal off a Landon Donovan free kick to complete a fantastic American rally in which they scored three times in the second half to erase a 2-0 deficit.
Except it wasn’t the go-ahead goal after all. Head official Koman Coulibaly waved off Edu’s strike for reasons that the now Philadelphia Union man says he still doesn’t understand to this day, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Now 28, Edu says that controversy is behind him, but he admits the experience has served as “motivation” for him to return to soccer’s biggest stage and put things right on the score sheet in Brazil.
“That’s obviously something I want to kind of accomplish now,” Edu told reporters before USMNT training at Stanford University on Friday. “To have been that close and to have it taken away, it kind of sucked. Now the focus is to try to do it again.”
But there are no guarantees in soccer. And Edu’s very attendance in this camp – as close as a player can get before booking a World Cup ticket – is something of an against-all-odds story.
As recently as five months ago, Edu’s club situation was so bad that he seemed miles from returning to any national team camp. His “dream move” from beleaguered Rangers FC to Stoke City in August of 2012 turned sour, as he went on to make just one solitary 10-minute appearance for the English Premier League club.
A subsequent loan spell to Turkish club Bursaspor was slightly more fruitful, netting him 12 appearances, and putting him back in play for the USMNT as they opened the CONCACAF Hexagonal last winter. Edu even went the full 90 in the Americans’ 0-0 draw with Mexico at Estadio Azteca in March of 2013.
He’d have hardly guessed that was the last time he’d take the pitch in a US uniform. Last May, Edu withdrew from USMNT camp before a five-match spell that included three qualifiers with a sports hernia injury and was set back further after going under the knife. His chance at redemption, it would seem, was slipping further and further away.
But regardless, Edu never lost faith that he’d be in the position he is now.
“I’m a very confident person,” the 2007 MLS Rookie of the Year said. “Confident in who I am as a person as well as how I am as a player. And I just knew that I had to get out of that situation in England first and foremost and I had to get the opportunity to get back playing again.”
That put the ball in motion to return to MLS, as Philadelphia snared him as a Designated Player on a season-long loan from Stoke City this past January with an option to buy. And sure enough, Edu has reemerged as the two-way threat US fans remember seeing in South Africa, through to the 2011 Gold Cup and into the beginning of Klinsmann’s tenure. He’s started 11 games in central midfield for the Union and has been, in several matches, the most dominant player on the pitch.
His still brief time under John Hackworth has been just the tonic he needs to rediscover who he is – and put him back onto Klinsmann’s depth chart.
“I felt good when I made that decision [to return to MLS],” he said. “I felt that if I did well there, it would help get me back into this picture. And, so far, that’s been the case, and I’m very grateful to Philadelphia for giving me that opportunity.
“Now it’s about focusing here and getting on that plane to Brazil.”
And if he can accomplish that, he just may get the chance to settle that score.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.