CHESTER, Pa. – Whenever Maurice Edu is available, Jim Curtin has played him 90 minutes.
The only question in the Philadelphia Union interim manager’s mind has been where to play him, as Curtin has shuffled the Union’s first-year Designated Player from the backline to the midfield and back again.
“Mo’s a top player in our league – another player that should be talked about for Best XI,” Curtin told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s been doing everything we’ve asked and more. He’s become a vocal leader in the locker room. He’s confident right now, whether it’s the midfield or center back. He’s as versatile as they get and he’s playing as well as anyone in MLS.”
When Curtin first took over three months ago, he switched Edu to center back to help stabilize a struggling defense. Once the Union brought back Carlos Valdes from loan a month ago, Edu returned to the midfield, leaving Valdes to partner with Ethan White at center back.
But with Valdes out of commission for the Union’s last two games due to his commitments with the Colombian national team, Edu was plugged in at center back once again – where he led Philly to back-to-back shutouts over Toronto FC.
“Obviously the position is different, so when you’re on the backline, you can’t take as many risks,” Edu said. “If you make a mistake there, then the player is basically in one-on-one with the goalkeeper. It’s just about making sure you’re always alert, always aware of what’s going on in the game and just being as vocal as you can with your teammates.”
Curtin didn’t want to reveal how he’s going to move forward with the lineup for Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls (3 pm ET, NBC Sports, stream on NBCSports.com) with Valdes back in the fold. If Edu stays at center back, it would likely mean benching White, a player that Curtin said “has really, really grown on me.” And if Edu returns to a crowded midfield, that could mean resting either Cristian Maidana or Vincent Nogueira, two of the club’s top playmakers.
- Find more Union news at PhiladelphiaUnion.com
Either way, Curtin knows that Edu will gladly play either position, even though the Union manager and former MLS defender realizes shuffling between the two spots “is not an easy thing to do.”
But for Edu, at this point of the season, it’s all about helping his team make the playoffs – and winning the US Open Cup final on Tuesday against the Seattle Sounders.
“If I was asked to play right back, if I was asked for whatever reason to play in goal, I would do it,” Edu said. “The same can be said for everyone on this team because we believe in what we’re trying to accomplish here. And at the end of the day, you’re doing this for the team. It’s not about your personal preference; it’s about accomplishing something greater than yourself.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.