BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, January 28, 2013
After a rough year in 2012 for both Rangers and Stoke, the new year has brought in positive change for Maurice Edu as he has joined Bursaspor in their quest to qualify for European play.
Edu, 26, began 2012 with Rangers in Scotland but was forced to leave the club amid a financial collapse that demoted the club to the fourth tier of Scottish soccer. In August he signed with Stoke City of the Premier League but found playing time there difficult to come by.
With the opening of the January transfer window, Edu, was loaned to Bursaspor of Turkey's Super Lig. Bursaspor are historically a strong team in Turkey albeit not quite at the same level as Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, or Besiktas which are commonly known as the country's "big three."
In the 2012/13 season, Bursaspor are pushing to break into the top four of the Superlig which would qualify them for a spot in European competition. Under the league's current format, the top two teams qualify for the Champions League and the third and fourth placed teams earn a spot in the Europa League.
Bursaspor currently sit in sixth place with 27 points through 19 games but the standings remain tight with just four points separating them from second place Fenerbahce. Edu made his Bursaspor debut last weekend in a 2-1 win over Kayserispor. He also started midweek in a 3-0 loss in the Turkish Cup to Fenerbahce. This past Saturday he went a full 90 in a loss to Istanbul BB.
For Edu, it was a relief to back on the field, especially with a club that has its sights on finishing high within the league.
"My expectations from this opportunity are to get back to playing regularly and to make sure I am at my best so I can help both Bursaspor for the remainder of this season, as well as the national team in our important qualifiers coming up," Edu told YA on Thursday. "The first game went well for myself and the team. It was the next game after a loss so it was important to get a win. It was good for me to get a run out and will only help as I get back up to full match fitness."
Despite having been occasionally linked with a possible positional switch to the backline, Edu was brought into Bursaspor to play in his usual central midfield position.
After finishing his NCAA career with the University of Maryland where he won a national a national championship in 2005, Edu turned professional and was selected by Toronto FC with the first overall pick in the 2007 MLS Superdraft.
In 2008, he made the move abroad when he signed a five year deal with Rangers. With the powerful Glasgow club he won Scottish Premier League titles in 2009-2011. But when the club were hit with a financial crisis last year, he was forced to leave and signed with Stoke.
Bursaspor will now be Edu's fourth professional club and he is looking forward to experiencing the game in Turkey.
"I played against Bursaspor a couple years back," Edu said. "I know what the team can offer, although the personnel has changed quite a bit since then. I know a little about the league and everyone I've spoken too has had good things to say about the standard so I'm looking forward to this new challenge. Also, I know the fans are amazing here and very passionate so that will make for very good atmospheres at the stadiums."
When he arrived at Stoke, Edu missed a large portion of the team's preseason but he doesn't necessarily believe that the missing the preseason was a factor in his lack of playing time. He doesn't speculate on the reasons at this time.
Instead, he is simply focused on Bursaspor and U.S. national team who begin the final round of World Cup qualifying on February 6 with a difficult match on the road against Honduras.
"The experience at Stoke was a frustrating one for obvious reasons," Edu said. "I don't think a lack of preseason played a role because I kept myself fit and worked hard and showed well in training and games they scheduled. This season hasn't started the way I would have predicted but fortunately that was just the first half of the season. The second half is just underway and I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited to get back playing at club level with Bursaspor as well as getting back playing with the national team."
"I know the importance playing regularly with your club team has on the national team," he added. "So that's why it was important for me to get out of that situation and back to playing."
On the international front, Edu is optimistic of the team's chances. The US team is in the final round of Concacaf qualifying and they are in a group with Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Jamaica. The top three will advance automatically to the World Cup.
The US starts qualifying on the road against Honduras and in March will travel to face Mexico followed by a home game against Costa Rica. It is a difficult start to qualifying but Edu believes that the team has made progress since Jurgen Klinsmann was hired in 2011. During that time the US team won its first ever away game against Mexico.
"We know these games will be difficult but we have to be confident in the squad we have and the progress we've made," Edu concluded. "We know that at our best we are capable of competing with the best. Qualifying is never easy though so it's important we approach these games one at a time, not looking past any opponent."