Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
MIAMI — When Maurice Edu switched addresses from Stoke City to Bursaspor last month, the hope was that he would find consistent playing time after failing to do so with the Potters.
In his first few weeks with the Turkish club, Edu has gotten just what he asked for and more.
Since joining Bursaspor on loan through the rest of the season, Edu has been busy seeing the type of minutes that were nonexistent at Stoke. In fact, the veteran midfielder has been so occupied with league and cup games that he has not had a chance to experience and enjoy all of what Turkey has to offer.
That is a welcomed problem.
“You definitely feel sharper,” Edu told SBI of playing consistently again. “You can train as much as you want and do as much as you want in training and feel as sharp as you can be, whether it’s scrimmages or small games. But you can never really replicate a game unless you play a game.
“To be involved in a situation where things are at stake, whether it’s a cup tie, or (league) points that can move you up or down the table, that’s when you really get tested and really see where you are as a player. It’s been good to be tested week in and week out and just to get back to playing soccer again.”
That is putting it lightly. Edu made his debut for Bursaspor by coming off the bench and playing 25 minutes in a league game against Kayserispor on Jan. 19. Since that 2-1 win, the 26-year-old Edu has racked up 360 minutes as a starter in four matches that have come a frenzied pace.
While some players would admit to feeling fatigued after playing so much in such a brief period of time, Edu is showing no signs of someone burdened by the heavy workload. Instead, he has joined the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday versus Honduras looking more fit and ready than he has in months and that has given coach Jurgen Klinsmann another viable option to potentially start against Los Catrachos.
“It is important that he gets games in, that he’s in a rhythm, that he’s getting sharper and that also gives him more confidence,” said Klinsmann. “We are pleased that he did that move.
“It’s a difficult environment. If you’ve ever been to Turkey and I played games there in European leagues, it’s a very hard environment. It’s not easy, but we are pleased that he’s coming back here now knowing, ‘I’m playing, I’m ready again.’ It gives us coaches another important option, he’s always been an important player to us, and it’s good to see that.”
Edu admittedly has not yet really been exposed to how wild and critical Turkish supporters and media can be, as he has been too busy preparing for and playing in games. What he has noticed is that the Super Lig, a league that is often overlooked by many in the U.S. and around the world, is full of quality and aesthetically-pleasing soccer.
“It’s not so much direct sometimes,” said Edu of the style in Turkey. “They really want to play and pass and keep it on the ground and our team, we try to play, which is good. I like that. So far, the standard is pretty good.
“You’ve seen some of the teams that we’ve played against signing big-name players. We played against Fenerbahce, they have guys like (Raul) Meireles and (Dirk) Kuyt, who was just at Liverpool, then you see Galatasaray signing (Wesley) Sneijder and (Didier) Drogba. There’s some very good players in the league, even some of the smaller teams have some big players that might not be as well known around the world but still very technically-gifted and creative.”
With a steady dose of playing time now under his belt, Edu is hoping to convince Klinsmann that he is ready for his first start in a U.S. jersey since last August’s memorable 1-0 road win against Mexico (Edu played at centerback in that game).
Should he get the nod over Danny Williams in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday afternoon, Edu would be tasked with serving as a blanket in front of the back four and would have to go up against the likes of Roger Espinoza and Oscar Boniek Garcia. That is no easy task, especially when considering how the raucous home crowd will fuel the Honduran players.
Edu, however, was in similar situations during the last World Cup cycle and he is eager to show Klinsmann that his experience in these type of games combined with his newfound playing time make him the best man for the job on Wednesday as the Americans begin the final phase of qualifying.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Edu. “You play the friendly games against these big teams, you go into Russia, you go into Italy, and in the back of your mind you’re doing that because you want to be prepared for qualifying and, touch wood, it all goes well and eventually the World Cup.
“You want to be able to go into every game feeling confident. When you go to places like Italy and get wins there and you go to Russia, which was on a good run of games, and pick up a draw there, it should give you confidence that you can play against any team and do well.”