Fast track to stardom
Edu rockets from college to MLS to U.S. national team
Posted: Monday February 25, 2008 10:57AM; Updated: Monday February 25, 2008 10:57AM
In the brief history of MLS, more No. 1 draft picks have flamed out than have panned out, but if ever a player seemed destined to brighten that dreary history, it was Maurice Edu.
So it proved to be.
He left the University of Maryland a year early to sign with MLS, and a year later, is not only the reigning Rookie of the Year but also a U.S. international with three wins and three shutouts to his credit in his first three games in a U.S. jersey.
The central midfield slots are crowded -- Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni are all in the mix -- yet Edu has fans on both sides of the border pulling for him, after scoring four goals in 25 games for Toronto FC last year.
"I was fortunate to come to a team where I played a lot my first season, so I think that helped me a lot," says Edu, who unlike many of his teammates, mostly stayed healthy as TFC struggled to win six games.
"It forced me, especially playing center midfield, to take a lot of responsibility for the team and play better than maybe I expected going into it. It's a matter of timing."
That a rookie American would excel for a Canadian team in its own inaugural season is just one intriguing facet of the Edu story. Like 2006 No. 1 pick Marvell Wynne, Edu is tall, strong, fast and African-American. Unlike Wynne, whose father played Major League Baseball and at first scratched his head over his son's love for soccer, Edu grew up with the game.
"Everyone in my family plays sports," says Edu, who was born and raised in Southern California. "We're a very athletic family. Both of my parents played soccer and couple of my sisters ran track and played basketball. We're a soccer family. If I didn't play soccer, they'd disown me."
After being drafted by New York, Wynne is now at Toronto FC and either lines up at right back or right mid as Edu mans the middle. TFC got Wynne in a trade. Trading Edu would be insane.
Rumors of a European move flared and flickered out during the winter, with Aston Villa -- which played TFC in a friendly last summer -- among the teams initiating contact, but director of football Mo Johnston knows he can't keep the graceful yet powerful 6-foot, 170-pound Edu forever even if he has yet to play a competitive match for the U.S.
"I think it's been a very productive year for myself," says Edu, who left Maryland after his junior year to sign with MLS as a Generation Adidas player. "The most important part of this year isn't the accolades or things like that, it's that I've grown and developed as a player. I've tried to increase my wealth of knowledge about the game."