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Maurice Edu: Late Bloomer, Old Firm American Hero


In the last few years a great deal of ink has been spent in the American football press about how young aspiring American soccer players must go to Academies and then skip college for MLS or a trip to Europe in order to properly develop. I’ve never subscribed entirely to this view as culturally our athletes tend to bloom at a later age, and playing college soccer in the US often hardens character of players and the good work of the PDL and NPSL with amateur players give footballers more than just the college season to develop their skills.

Last week, Anton Peterlin currently in the PDL and previously a four year college soccer letter man was signed by Everton, a perennial top half club in the world’s best football league. This week saw Mo Edu, a former three year college soccer player at Maryland play a full 90 minutes in the Old Firm match and contribute a key role as Rangers soared to the top of the Scottish Premier League table. Edu’s key role in Rangers has been confirmed by Walter Smith, one of the few British managers to consistently give American players a shot to show their stuff in England or Scotland. (Smith brought Joe Max Moore and Brian McBride to Everton as well as DaMarcus Beasley to Rangers before signing Edu in August 2008).

Edu has been the beneficiary of the circus surrounding the Scottish National Team with the banning of Barry Ferguson and his subsequent suspension with Rangers. Ferguson, whose key role in the Scottish and Rangers setup was unquestioned is now persona non grata in Glasgow thanks to his childish behavior during the last international break. Thus Edu, fell into a key role as the holding midfielder for one of the best supported clubs in the English speaking world. Scoring two goals in his first few games after replacing Ferguson, Edu has become an indispensable part of Rangers title chase and the attempts of the club to re-establish itself as a player in European football.

Edu is all the more amazing when you consider his story. Freddy Adu and Santino Quaranta were called into the US team at 16. Landon Donovan and Bobby Convey at 17. All of the previously mentioned players featured for a US Youth National Team before the age of 16. Maurice Edu’s first ever appearance for any US team was at the age of 21, in a full international against Switzerland. Edu is one of the few key US players to have been capped for the senior team for the first time after the age of 20 who had never played for any US Youth team at the time.

Mo Johnston, John Carver and Toronto FC also deserve credit for drafting Edu with the first pick of the 2007 MLS Superdraft and then honing his skills for a year and a half. It’s possible that if Edu had been drafted into a less professional and European oriented setup in MLS, he would not have developed as quickly. Edu’s development rapid caught the eye of Bob Bradley who capped Edu as mentioned above before he had cleared any of the typical US Soccer Youth National Team hurdles.

While it can be strongly argued that the Scottish Premier League isn’t of a high standard, cracking the lineup of either of the Old Firm sides isn’t an easy task. I have an English friend who reminds me that he rates the SPL below MLS and feels most USL-1 sides would be in the top half of the SPL table, and even believes some SPL sides would struggle in USL-2.

But the perceived quality of the SPL  is not very important in this discussion. The point is Rangers are a massive club, and Edu without taking the preferred development path advocated in US Soccer circles has become a regular for a prominent European club and for the US National Team. As we hone the US Development system in the upcoming years, let the lessons of Mo Edu’s emergence on the stage remind us that a one size fits all system isn’t the best idea for the United States.

Listen to my interview with Mo Edu from just after he signed with Rangers:

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  1. Retro Jordans

    August 5, 2010 at 2:16 am

    It is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your weblog especially its discussion. Rerto Jordans. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work. Rerto Jordans.


    February 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I think we should not join the English league as it would destroy years of history.
    We should crate European super league with other big sides from small nations. Cut the domestic league in half to 22 games. then use the free weeks to play a european super league.
    This way we could have our cakes and eat them. keep the domestic leagues and qualification for europe and play big sides across Europe like Rapid Vienna, Ajax, Sporting Libon, Porto.

  3. dezmembrari masini

    February 11, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    It was a very good player in this season.

  4. auto second hand

    February 11, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    We were thrilled this season. I hope to do in 2010 as well.

  5. masini

    February 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    And as the proverb says, a miracle not you just three days, he lost the form. At the time these players form and physical state matters a lot.

  6. Brian

    May 20, 2009 at 2:43 am

    How do Rangers fans feel about him?

  7. Robert M

    May 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Being a rangers fan,i was at the Old Firm match and Maurice Edu impressed me again.It took a while for him to get his chance in the first team and he has taken it,long may it continue.
    I also think that the Scottish Premier League is a lot stronger than people outside of my country think.remember that Rangers were in a European final last year.

  8. Theodore

    May 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Just got done reading Kevin’s post on prospect signings and think this is all related. Another example of how the NFL model to which the MLS adheres just doesn’t work for soccer. By the time a player is thru the NCAA division 1, at age 22, and entering his first pro team, 99.9% of global prospects have already either made it or not. While his global comrades have been playing pro for five years – yet the top NCAA prospect has lived in a completely different world, different game, different rules, different level of competition, insulated from the global game. It’s a very tough way to go.

    Why do we keep letting NFL guys run this?

  9. Andrew

    May 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

    All teams and league rise and fall over time, right now the Celtic and Rangers are probably the worst they have been for 10 years, but they are still good teams. If they were in the EPL with the teams they have right now they would be relegated, but if the proposed EPL1/EPL2 goes ahead and they gain entry, this would give them time in EPL2 to develop their teams (with the extra money) before gaining promotion and eventually challenging the top 4.

    IMO no MLS team would stand a chance against a top 4 EPL team at the moment, but neither do 99% of the teams in Europe!!

    Keep an eye on the German league, I think it will be top league in European in 10 years time.

    Question, how does youth development work in the MLS? Do kids sign up to teams as young as 8 as they do in other parts of the world?

  10. Joey Clams

    May 12, 2009 at 7:25 am

    He may regress in Scotland, but his salary is probably decent. Are you progressing at your job?

  11. Ryan Gilbert

    May 12, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Really good article – but spoiled by the view of Scottish football. Anyone who believes the SPL is the same level as USL-2 needs to take a long hard look at themselves. Yes, the
    SPL suffers in comparision to the EPL, but it’s still a cut above what’s on offer in MLS. We get MLS game across here, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest any of the top teams would struggle – there is a bit of a drop off after the top 5-6 sides, but anyone who believes the likes of Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Dundee United, Aberdeen or Hibs couldn’t hack it in the MLS has got a very skewed view of Scottish football.

    On the other hand – Mo Edu has really started to blossom, after a bit of a dodgy start to his Rangers career, and was my MOTM at the weekend. Great to see, and I hope he continues to improve – European football next year will no doubt lead to more imrpovements for him too. (guess which team i support….).

  12. JimD

    May 12, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Given that the english premier league is handed massive funds from sky tv, who even tried to buy man utd at one point, is it surprising that they consider themselves above other leagues? When sky tv started out they were unable to buy the rights to the epl, so they took on the spl, a smaller sized league in a comparitively smaller country. Once the epl was available they dropped the spl and concentrated on predominantly english sport, despite officially being known as “british” sky broadcasting. The fanbase in scotland is much smaller, so gate money is likewise. As far as Mo Edu is concerned, he’s at a famous club and being there can do nothing but good for his reputation. He already is quality, and looks to be improving every game.

  13. Bravo

    May 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

    The SPL is bad, but Rangers and Celtic are decent sides. If Rangers wins the SPL then they will get automatic entry to Champions League group stage which would be great experience for Edu. But the league play is pretty weak.

  14. kyle

    May 11, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Newcastle and Middlesborough would dominate MLS.

  15. Ture

    May 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Based on what I saw today in England, both Newcastle and Middlesborough would miss the MLS playoffs. In fact they could be the two worst teams in MLS.

    I think Edu will regress in Scotland. Seriously that league as your friend said is worse than USL. Not USL-1, but USL-2. That’s our third division! What tournament has Scotland qualified recently?

    I’m so not “affected” by this anglo love here and elsewhere on the net. I am serious when I say Middlesboro would be the worst team in MLS.

  16. LI Matt

    May 11, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Another data point on relative standards:

    Andy Dorman, who was never considered a superstar with the Revs, has been named SPL Player of the Month twice at St Mirren.

  17. eplnfl

    May 11, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    fine by me, a midfield that can last for a good # of years

  18. kyle

    May 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Edu and Bradley in the midfield for the USMNT.

  19. eplnfl

    May 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Great news for Edu. I always enjoy his efforts for the US Men. Is this another example of good player development by MLS. Look at the names mentioned above in connection with the Rangers and you see names that started out in MLS.

    I think we are too harsh on player development by MLS especially on players who decide to enter an American University and play college soccer at a Pac 10 or Acc school in great weather instead of playing in some cold damp pitch in Europe somewhere until a big club deems them ready. FSU or USC in January or February is not bad at all!

  20. Fras

    May 11, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Interesting viewpoint from your English friend regarding the quality of the SPL considering regular encounters between the Old Firm and English clubs have been quite even in terms of results over the years. Undoubtably the English premiership is the/a top league, however the 2 top Scottish
    clubs could compete and do well at the top level if they had access to the same level of investment as they already have the right attitude and coaching experience – both clubs have reached last eight of the champions league and reached eufa finals – which is quite remarkable when you consider their comparitive/meagre financial resources. How well do you think the MLS teams would do when faced with top English and european competition?

  21. Jared Montz

    May 11, 2009 at 10:52 am

    So pumped to see him doing so well! He is a great story and I can’t even imagine what he would be like to play in an Old Firm match! Looking forward to them winning the title!

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