EDU OPEN TO PLAYING CENTER BACK
With the World Cup just two months away, Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu says he would be willing to step forward and man the center back position if defender Oguchi Onyewu is still sidelined with an injury.
Onyewu went down with a knee injury in the US' final CONCACAF qualifying match versus Costa Rica last October and his status to be on the field for the June 12th match versus England remains in doubt.
Edu, who played center back for the USMNT at the 2008 Summer Olympics, says he would gladly fill in at Onyewu's regular position should head coach Bob Bradley need a body to replace the AC Milan man.
"I wouldn't have a problem with playing center back if Gooch is still hurt," Edu recently told YA. "I'm the type of person that just wants the team to do well so whatever I need to do to help, I'll do it."
Last month's friendly versus Holland marked Edu's return to international play after an 11 month layoff due to a crippling knee injury that kept him out of last summer's Confederations Cup.
The sensation of putting on a US national team jersey again was an unforgettable one for the former University of Maryland standout.
"It was unbelievable," he said of his USMNT return. "It had almost been a year since I last played with the national team. It almost felt like it was my first game [with the USMNT]. It was good to be back with the squad after missing the Confed Cup since I so wanted to be there and be included."
Edu's return to his club team came two months prior in a late December match versus Hibernian where he was late second half substiute in a 1-4 away victory.
After spending the first several weeks as head coach Walter Smith's first option off the bench, Edu is now regularly slotted in the starting 11, a change he believed would come after he got more games under his belt.
"Ever since I got back I've felt good," he added. "I haven't been thinking about the injury and really haven't had any problems. I think it was just a matter of getting in games."
The US international has excelled this season with the Scottish Premier League leaders by scoring two game-winners, including a scintillating last second goal versus Old Firm rivals Celtic which effectively ended any hopes of the Hoops running down the Light Blues in the league standings.
The poise and composure that Edu has shown over the ball this season has led many to think that he is playing the best soccer of his career, but yet the Fontana, California native holds the viewpoint that it has been his intelligence on the field that has contributed most to his game.
"I can always do better and so no, I don't think I'm at my best," he explained. "I think overall though, I'm a smarter player. I'm seeing the game differently. I'm used to the speed of play now and I have adapted well to the game here in Scotland."
With all the success that Rangers have experienced on the field, a cloud of uncertainty still looms over the club regarding the status of the club's future ownership.
Potential investors have come and gone but a buyer has still not come forward and acquired the debt-ridden club.
As much as Edu wants to keep his attention to matters on the field, he admits that as a player, the takeover talk is difficult to ignore.
"It does concern me a little bit," he said of the club's uncertain ownership status. "It affects us [players] in some ways, but I try to keep my focus on the field. I have no control over what happens and just hope that the takeover is beneficial for everone."
Whomever ends up owning the club will also have the decision of whether or not to maintain Walter Smith as head coach.
Edu is very up front in endorsing his current coach and believes that Smith should be brought back no matter how the takeover shakes out.
"I think Walter has done an unbelievable job and that it would benefit everyone to bring him back," continued Edu. "He was the one who believed in me and brought me here. I think they should keep him."
The last three transfer windows have seen Rangers bypass any new player signings due to the amount of debt that the club has accrued.
But what many viewed as a hindrance, Edu thinks that keeping the same group of players together has actually proven to be a large asset and furthermore, has played a key part in their championship run.
"It's actually helped," Edu said of the lack of new additions. "It brought the team closer together. We know each other well both on and off the field. We're willing to go the extra yard for each other and we fight for each other."
That closeness hit home for the midfielder when he was the victim of racial abuse adminstered by some unruly Rangers fans outside of Ibrox Stadium following a Champions League match last October.
Although police have yet to find the guilty parties, Edu is comforted by the support he has received by the team and fans and believes that Glasgow officials have done their very best over their course of the investigation.
"It was a one-off situation," he discussed. "Obviously no one wanted it to happen. The fans have been supportive and the club and police have done their best to resolve it. It doesn't bother me that they haven't found out who did it. They really did as much as they could."
Two wins in their final six matches will garner a second consecutive SPL championship medal for Edu, an outcome that is all but sure to happen.
Once he has tucked away the SPL title, Edu's thoughts will turn to earning a spot on Bradley's 23 man roster for the World Cup and a date on June 12th with England.
Suiting up against the giants of English soccer is an enticing thought all on its own, but for Edu, taking the field with his close friend and nearly-recovered Charlie Davies would be paramount.
"Charlie's been pushing really hard to be back, " Edu said of his compatriot. "He's so close to doing it. We're all on his side. Charlie has such a strong character and so much passion. You can't tell him no."
So when pressed as to what his dream scenario would be against the Three Lions, Edu makes no bones about who he'd love to see score the game-winner.
"Charlie getting the goal and me getting the assist," he concluded. "That would be perfect."
Edu and Rangers return to action this Sunday when they host Hearts.