Commentary / USL - Bethlehem Steel FC

Maurice Edu’s return to pitch goes smoothly

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union

On a sunny and overall beautiful day in the Lehigh Valley Sunday, Maurice Edu suited up for Bethlehem Steel FC and logged 32 minutes in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss to Louisville City FC. Sporting a pair of light blue and pink cleats, a fresh haircut, long sleeves, and his customary white tape wrapped tightly around both wrists, the 31 year old experienced live game action for the first time since he snapped his left fibula in October of 2016.

Composed and in control

As the Steel’s starting XI huddled near midfield prior to kickoff, Mo had one final chat with head coach Brendan Burke before sprinting to meet his teammates. They broke their huddle and took their positions. Edu was stationed as one of two defensive midfielders just above the four-man back line. The other defensive-mid was Derrick Jones, who started on the left while Edu manned the right side. The two would switch sides often in the brief 32 minutes in which Edu played.

Edu remained involved in Bethlehem’s play during the opening ten minutes. His first touch came in the second minute via an intercepted pass. Shortly after, Louisville City forced a turnover, which created a breakaway chance. Edu showed his speed is still there by backtracking and disrupting the run of play.

Edu gained early touches by effectively taking passes with his back to goal near midfield, which helped Bethlehem gain possession and the quick passing kept Louisville City defenders moving. He had no trouble finding the green spaces in Louisville’s midfield early on. In fact, eight minutes in, Edu found himself on the ground after drawing a foul roughly 30-40 yards from goal. He fought hard to gain position on his man and won possession shortly before being taken out from behind. The subsequent free kick turned out to be fruitless however.

Since Edu has not played since September 30th of 2016, one may have expected a somewhat rusty outing. But rusty was not the takeaway from this performance. He remained active – constantly talking with teammates making sure men were marked and the proper runs were finding the open channels. One thing that a player like Edu can never lose is his experience and the knowledge gained from his long career.

A perfect example of how Edu has not lost his vision or voice occurred roughly 12 minutes into the match. During a brief stoppage, he motioned to rookie right wing midfielder, Chris Nanco, to make runs down the right flank. Edu discussed his plan with Nanco shortly after, and sure enough the next time Edu had time and space, his head immediately popped up and spotted Nanco. He delivered a handful of on-target aerial passes down the right side of the field following the quick chat.

Following a corner kick opportunity in the 30th minute, Edu’s night was over. His final stat line was rather impressive – a 100% pass completion rate with 17 for 17 in passing.  He also accumulated 23 touches while remaining light on his feet throughout.  Youngster Anthony Fontana replaced the veteran in the 32nd minute. Edu would watch the remainder of the first half from the bench as his first rehab match ended with no real problems.

Following halftime, Edu did not make an immediate reappearance to the bench. Around the 53rd minute, the well respected midfielder returned to the bench in street clothes and rejoined his teammates once more field-side. Post-game Edu was positive and stated several times that he is very eager to move forward with what has been an extremely strenuous process to say the least.

Future steps

“The process it what it is. It’s out of my control,” explained Edu. “All I can do is work my ass off with the medical staff to continue to get fit. This was the next step in the progression.”

As for how he felt out on the pitch again after over 10 months of injury, Edu stated “You feel like you might be tentative at first… but I played free. I didn’t worry about my injury too much.” In regards to his potential impact with the Union, Edu said “I’m eager to get some more minutes under my belt and get closer and closer to getting back in the first team as soon as possible.”

“It felt pretty good to be back on the pitch. Unfortunate with the result, but from a personal standpoint I felt good with the minutes I got,” Edu continued. “I’m eager for more.”

While the journey back for him has been anything but simple, a positive, upbeat Maurice Edu remains ready for what lies ahead.

 

9 Comments

  1. This is really good news, both for Mo and for the Union. I don’t know if Mo will play for the Union this season (or ever again) or where exactly he would play (he can’t really take Bedoya or Harris’ spot), but it still a positive.

  2. Thank you for this detailed scouting report, Matt — by itself, worth all my Patreon bucks for the month.
    .
    Like JMac says, you gotta feel good about this — regardless what the future holds in store for Mo and the U, regardless how much (or little) you trust the V, the P, or the P. Edu’s steadfast toils suggest a fourth pillar: D, for discipline.
    .
    Mad respect for the rehab effort.

  3. This is great news! Had an opportunity to meet him at an event before the broken leg. He was very positive then and has remained mentally strong. Or at least positive in his attitude. All the best to Mo going forward!

  4. The Chopper says:

    Got to give Edu credit for doing the work to get back. He has nothing left to prove in his career and has made his money. A lot of others would have taken a buyout and called it a career after everything he has been through over the past two years.

    That takes a whole lot of character. Good for him. I hope he can stay healthy and get in a few more years.

  5. Glad to hear dude is back on his feet

  6. After Curtins handling of Rosenberry, it makes me ill to think of
    how he’ll handle the Haris, Alex, Edu issue. All three of them belong on the pitch. I doubt Curtin will be able to come up with an effective way to manage that.

    • The Chopper says:

      I’d be surprised if Edu sees substantial first team minutes between now and the end of the season. There is absolutely no reason to rush him.

  7. Happy for Mo. Great guy, hoping he can make his way back into the fold somehow, at some point. Was totally solid for us when healthy and sounds like he could rebound quickly.

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