Union coach Jim Curtin: Maurice Edu injury is "a big blow" to our 2016 plans

CHESTER, Pa. -- If the Philadelphia Union hope to avoid a third straight brutal start to the season, they’ll have to do so without their most recognizable player.

During Wednesday’s weekly press conference, head coach Jim Curtin revealed that Maurice Edu’s injury has become a lot more significant with the captain now expected to miss at least three months with a fracture in his left leg.

The injury was previously thought to be a stress reaction -- which Edu got from a rehabbing sports hernia surgery in October -- and Curtin hoped he’d be able to return during the first month of the season.

“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.”

Indeed, as the Union reshaped their roster in the offseason, much of the plan centered around moving Edu from center back into the defensive midfield. But with the former US national team player sidelined, the Union turned to 14-year MLS veteran Brian Carroll, who was re-signed this past offseason to provide depth, to start in that role.

Carroll figures to remain in that position Saturday vs. Crew SC in Columbus (7:30 p.m ET; MLS LIVE) -- but he’s anxious to see his fellow veteran return.

“You never want one of your teammates to hear news like that,” Carroll said. “I know that he’ll take his time and do things in the right way to be back on the field as fast as he can and in the best way possible. It’s just everyone else having to chip in that much more and being able to do our jobs the best way we can and get points until he’s able to get back.”

Curtin admitted there are a “couple of different things” he can do to try to fill Edu’s very big void, pointing to Warren Creavalle and Vincent Nogueira, who typically plays in the No. 8 role, as two other options.

But adding to the complication is that attacking midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta is “week to week” with tendonitis in his left knee, leaving the team thin in the midfield ahead of Saturday’s clash in Columbus -- a building in which they’ve had very little success traditionally.

“We’ll have to adjust to see what makes the most sense,” Curtin said. “B.C. has been sharp all preseason. He was one of the few guys that I thought on the weekend had a positive performance along with [goalkeeper Andre Blake]. He was breaking up plays and did a decent job for us. So we’ll look at the tape and go week to week. But it does change the team.”

The loss of Edu’s leadership voice will also be a tough one, especially as the Union try to integrate several new midfielders, including Ilsinho, Roland Alberg and Chris Pontius. But it’s just an obstacle the team must figure out a way to overcome.

“We need to have a good mentality and stick together through a tough time,” Curtin said. “Injuries happen; they’re part of the game. Columbus doesn’t care one way or another.”

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