A Candid Conversation With Mo Edu

Mo Edu: On the ball against Colombia...

Way back when we started The Shin Guardian Maurice Edu was the first player to recognize our publication on Twitter.

Later that year in October, when we worked with groups of fans to initiate the Charlie Davies Salute at RFK following his horrific accident, it was again Mo Edu that recognized our effort and was the first to get the word out–despite dealing with his own grief.

There is a reason that Mo Edu has more followers than any other U.S. player on Twitter and that’s because it’s easy to see he’s just a genuine guy.

Follow him on Twitter and you’ll see.

He’s always responding to those that reach out to him, even though he is, you know, a Champions League player, now a World Cup veteran, and an integral part of one of the most storied clubs in all of sports, Glasgow Rangers.

Ladies and gentleman, finally, our conversation with Mo Edu:

(Note: This conversation taped before Edu’s knee injury that will rule him out of tomorrow’s Manchester United clash at Ibrox.)

TSG: Well first, I’m not going to ask you about some of the following popular subjects, like: “The World Cup” “Slovenia goal” “Ghana” and “Ricardo Clark.”

Mo Edu: Okay, very cool. Thanks.

TSG: I hear Sky Sports reports all the time referring to you as “Morris” and then the States reports referring to you as “Maurice.” Do you go by Morris, Maurice, or Mo?

Mo: Mo. It’s just Mo. I prefer Mo.

TSG: Straightaway. Good. I can stop guessing or, rather, messing that up.

Okay, let’s get rolling. Recently you became the first American to score twice in a Champions League match. (Maurice Edu scored against Valencia and then (d’oh) diverted one into his own net afterward. The Rangers drew Valencia in that one, 1-1.)

Talk about that.

Mo: [Laughing] I mean, it was a great game. I would have obviously liked for both of those two goals to be for our team…

It was great to score my first Champions League goal, but not winning the game was obviously more disappointing.

TSG: Tell me about the difference in playing a league game versus a Champs League game. Is it the publicity and the press? The mindset? Is there a different mentality at all?

Mo: Well, first it’s expectations. In the domestic league, we’re expected to win every game. Every game we’re pretty much the favorites. And we’ve done well in our league this year and lived up to it.

In the Champions League, we’re playing the best in the world. We’re the underdogs and our formation in those games, the 4-5-1, reflects this and is a reflection of the quality of the teams we’re playing against.

Obviously the Champions League is more difficult and, no disrespect to the SPL, but it’s just a different feel.

TSG: Is there a different feel in practice during those weeks as well? Is there more intensity in preparation?

Mo: Nah, to be honest…everyone just gets excited for the Champions League. We all look forward to it.

We know it’s huge. It’s a pretty big opportunity for us to play in those games. For our team.

I think because of how we’ve done thus far this season in the league, we’re pretty confident going into the games [in the CL] and think we can do something special this year.

TSG: What’s been the best or unique experience in traveling for the Champions League?

Old Trafford...quiet for a brief moment...

Mo: Playing in different, storied stadiums. We played at Old Trafford and the Mestalla in Spain–two historical stadiums.

Playing in those stadiums is something that you dream of as a kid. Obviously Old Trafford is the home one of the most renowned clubs in the world and has a great atmosphere.

That [playing at Old Trafford] being my first Champions League game it was very exciting. It’s a special moment to play there.

Then when we play at home in Champions League it’s second to none because of the good turnout by our fans and how much energy there is for those games.

Champions League games at Ibrox are something special. You really have to be there to witness just what the feeling is.

TSG: I spoke to some of the Rangers supporters and they wanted to know this specifically-worded question, “How freaky do you find the Rangers-Celtics rivalry?”

Mo: I mean, well first and foremost, for those that don’t know, it’s the biggest sports rivalry in the world. [A little more about it here.]

The lead-up to those games are just full of excitement. When the games kickoff…well, I’ve never been let down.

The passion that goes into the game by each team and the passion and the hatred that goes against the other teams by the fans is just amazing.

It’s a game we all relish and look forward to and I’ve never been let down.

I’ve been fortunate enough to score in one and I always really enjoy the games actually.

TSG: In terms of that rivalry–and while the Scottish Premier League is itself a very physical league–it’s hard not notice how many more fouls there are in the Celtics-Rangers game and just how unbelievably physical the matches are.

Do you notice that out on the field?

Mo: Well, it’s always hard because the week before there is so much hype leading up to the game. It’s the only thing that people talk about all week. Everywhere you look around town the week before the game is all about the game.

There’s a large buildup going into the game…so when the game kicks off there is a lot of energy, a lot of passion and emotion that’s already built up and now let go on the field.

You try to keep a calm head and not get wound up in all the silliness that goes on, but it’s hard not to feel it.

TSG: You mentioned earlier in your career–when you were at Toronto FC–that it was important for you to go to a well-known, established club to learn. What have you improved about your game at Rangers?

Mo: Well, overall, it’s maturing.

I’ve become a more well-rounded player; I’ve tried to become good at all the little things in the game. The biggest part though has been growing up and maturing though.

David Weir, going hard in a Celtics-Rangers clash...

TSG: Another question from the Ibrox faithful here: Do you expect to play as long as Sir David Weir?

Mo: [chuckles] I’d love to. He’s definitely elite. He’s a true professional. He’s a dedicated athlete. He takes care of his body and that’s a testament to him that he’s played as long as he has at his level.

I don’t think many players go on and play as long as he does and it’d be fortunate if I could do that…

TSG: Let’s transition to the U.S. team. I want to go back to October because one of the focal points of camp was your position on the team, specifically playing centerback instead of midfield.

Now it’s not a position you hadn’t played, but it’s not the one you’ve honed and improved yourself with at Rangers. How did that get set up? Did you come in the first day and were you playing central defense already?

Mo: When I first got there he [Bob] gave me a heads up and said that…they were going to look at me back there and for me to keep an open mind.

So that’s how I went about the week and attempted to learn from the guys around me.

TSG: Was there a specific reason–better distribution or pressing speed–that Bob put you back there? What was the impetus for it?

Mo: I mean, he tried to explain to me that I had good attributes that might lead me to do well back there. He wanted to give me a chance to experience it and for them to see how it could work out.

TSG: How do you feel it worked out?

Mo: I thought it was alright. It went okay, not the greatest. I didn’t feel too out of my comfort zone. I think as the game wore on, I got better.

I mean I don’t think I’m a seasoned vet back there or anything, but it was alright.

Edu: Grew comfortable as the game wore on...

TSG: At the end of camp, you next played in the three-man midfield against Colombia. So what was the overall feedback of the camp in playing those two positions?

Mo: Basically, the feedback was that he thinks that I have some quality beneficial to play centerback. That was about it.

TSG: Do you have the sense that you’ll be tried out there permanently? Or will you continue to get runs at both positions? Is the latter a fair statement or am I putting words in your mouth?

Mo: Well, like I said, they see me as a center midfielder but with the option that I could possibly play centerback if needed.

TSG: Okay, let’s move on, some teammate questions for you.

Which player do you want with you if you’re about get in a brawl in a bar?

Mo: Gooch, easily.

And…for Rangers, Kirk Broadfoot.

TSG: Who’s the best ball striker you’ve ever played with from a scoring perspective. Who’s got the sweetest shot on goal?

Mo: Clint strikes the ball well. He’s got good technique and when he gets it…yeah.

TSG: What players do or did you learn the most from at Gers?

Scottish and Gers great Barry Ferguson...

Mo: Barry Ferguson and Pedro Mendes. Every day in training, I learned something from those guys. Those were the guys I tried to emulate.

TSG: Okay, what are your aspirations for your level of play in the future? Where do you see yourself progressing to, level-wise or league-wise?

Mo: I’ve always been a fan of Arsenal. They’re my favorite team, so I could see myself there at some point. Then when you watch a team like Barcelona you obviously like to think about possibly playing there with the way they move the ball.

TSG: Is your agent based overseas?

Mo: No, in the States.

TSG: So how does it work…your contract is up in two more years. Does the club come to you and say something to the effect of, “We’re trying to get a return on investment and we’re shopping you around”?

Or do you, the player, say, “I want to go somewhere else”?

Or do you just wait to six months before the end of the contract and that necessitates the conversation?

Mo: It could happen numerous ways and either the first two ways you described are the most likely ones.

As a player, though, you try not to think of that stuff at all. When you think too much about that stuff, you’re game goes down.

That’s why you hire the agent.

TSG: Okay, carefully then: has there been chatter about you moving given your age and the solid campaign that you’re having this year?

Mo: [Laughing] I don’t know. I had a couple of rough seasons with injuries and this is the first year I haven’t really been injured.

Right now, I’m focused on helping my team out and getting some trophies to Ibrox.

TSG: Okay, fair enough.

Something people don’t know, is that your father had a stroke a few years ago. I wanted to ask you about this because my mother is afflicted with something similar called AVM (Arterio-Venous Malformation).

Has he ever been able to come over and watch you play?

Mo: It’s difficult for them to come over. He hasn’t been able to come over.

The last camp back in the States in Chicago, that’s the first time he was able to see me play in a while.

It was really good for him to come see me play. My brother comes over here often though.

TSG: In terms of playing in front of your father, talk about how special it is since he can’t come aboard.

Mo: My father introduced me to the game at a young age and now he can’t come to most of my games. He was my first coach. He doesn’t have as big a role now and that’s difficult sometimes.

When he does get a chance to see me play it’s very special. I try hard every game, but those games when he’s there are really important.

TSG: Does he follow you on TV?

Mo: They try to get as many games as they can.

TSG: Do you catch up after the games on the phone and talk about them?

Mo: It’s difficult, you know, given his condition… [pauses...]

TSG: Okay…let’s change up the thinking. There are a number of high-profile Americans now abroad from old timers like Friedel and Cherundolo to the young guys like yourself, Stu and Jozy. How’s the “player network” help for Americans abroad?

Mo: It’s good having all the guys here and around Europe.

Sometimes you feel all alone overseas, but now you can go visit a lot more with a lot of the guys you played with either growing up or in camps. For me personally I haven’t had the time to go visit; I’ve had a lot of midweek games, but I’m looking forward to getting out to see the guys.

Stuart had a chance to come catch the game at Old Trafford.

Jozy had a chance to watch the game in Spain.

It’s just good having friends around.

TSG: I’ll leave it there for the day. I wanted to thank you for always supporting The Shin Guardian from our initial days. You’ve always been supportive and given us the time of day and I thank you for that.

Mo: Oh man, no problem, my pleasure.

TSG: And we’ve grown quite a bit. We averaged about a half million readers per month during the World Cup and we’re growing!

Mo: Really, no worries. Glad I could play my role in it.

……….

Mo Edu, genuine.

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21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by StevePDX on 2010/11/23 at 7:29 PM

    What a class act…We’re just flat-out lucky to have this guy on our national team! All the best, Mo!

    Reply

  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/11/23 at 8:00 PM

    Great interview.

    Would have been great to know how he felt exactly to have a perfectly good goal disallowed, in what probably would have been the winner. Obviously, he was gutted, but…

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/11/23 at 8:05 PM

      You know so many people have asked him that question. I’m sure the answer is around a few places.

      Reply

  3. Mo’s amazing – all the best for you on the field and your family off the field!

    Reply

  4. A decade ago, we could scarcely hope for a USA central midfielder with Champion’s league, World Cup elimination round and top flight Scottish league championship on his resume. It’s even better at age 24.

    Kind of surprised didn’t put the context of playing central defender with his experience at the Olympics. I also wonder what he thought playing against the country of birth of his parents.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2010/11/23 at 11:40 PM

      Even crazier, Mo might be fourth on the depth chart of defending/holding/linking central midfielders (Jones, Bradley, Holden).

      Reply

      • Posted by justin on 2010/11/24 at 2:17 AM

        i don’t get it…
        this is a genuine question and not trying to bash on MB90 because he’s a good player. Why does he have the edge at a starting spot over Holden or Edu. After this past fall overseas I would have to say the other two are in better form.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2010/11/24 at 8:40 AM

          I wasn’t necessarily trying to list them in exact order, but I do consider Bradley to be better than Edu. Holden and Bradley are about even for me.

          Bradley is tremendously underrated as both a goalscorer and a passer–people like to stereotype him as an all work rate guy, which is a disservice to Bradley’s game. Bradley is a guy who will occasionally play the killer pass but more often the pass before the killer pass.

          Bradley’s weakness is that he’s sometimes indisciplined in chasing the ball, so if you want a Jones-Holden part of the central spine for more discipline, I won’t blame you. But ultimately I think Bradley is the best short and long-term option.

          Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/11/24 at 9:27 AM

      Careful with the benchmarks larryang, you’re forgetting a certain Mr. Claudio Reyna! But, you’re right, it’s good for US football and illustrates progression.

      As for the mids, I think Bradley is more of a hybrid. Not exactly a true DM (not diciplined enough) or DLP (doesn’t have the passing range). I guess if you have to pigeonhole him, it would be box-to-box. My critique is that he doesn’t score enough goals (about 1 in 7 games), but I guess he’s only 23.

      If I were picking the team, he would not be in the starting XI ahead of Holden,

      Reply

      • Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2010/11/24 at 10:30 AM

        I think as things pan out we’ll likely see something that Bradley experimented with before, the 4-2-3-1 style of offense and incorporating the strength of the midfield into the attack. In front of the backline could be both Jones and Bradley to distribute to Donovan, Dempsey (playing a withdrawn striker position), and Holden on the other side with Altidore up top.

        I also think this is why Edu was tried in the backline, as he is the odd man out in this style of play. And while Gooch and Goodson provide decent attacking options in the box on set plays, they don’t have the offensive awareness that Edu has to attack the ball in the air, so for opponents like Slovenia who prefer to sit back and allow the opposition to attack Edu has enough speed to get back on counter-attacks while still providing good service out of the back moving forward.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/11/24 at 10:44 AM

          I actually thought that Edu played as a CB back so he can drop back from DM as the full backs go forward to give some width, especially against Gold Cup opponents, where I think the USA will overmatch teams in terms of quality.

          Or I could be totally wrong(!), and he was being tested as an out and out CB…

          Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2010/11/24 at 8:00 PM

          I love that idea. But first we need a left back who actually gets forward with authority–Bocanegra (wisely) chooses not to; Bornstein is, uh, Bornstein.

          Reply

  5. Posted by Nelson on 2010/11/24 at 2:55 PM

    Edu doesn´t foul nearly as much as M. Bradley. He´s just cool like that and clutch even if the ref who got paid off trys to deny that. I´m all for him on the field in any capacity. I´d even try him at left back over Bornstein. Heck I might start him at forward over Jozy.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Mferrante on 2010/11/24 at 7:11 PM

    Love Mo Edu. Seems like a great guy

    Reply

  7. Love the interview, love the inexplicably explicit shoutout.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Dylan on 2010/11/24 at 8:37 PM

    can’t help but think if he were playing today, that the Rangers would have taken the points from Man U.

    Reply

  9. Posted by kaya on 2010/11/24 at 9:05 PM

    Seems like a great guy with a lot to celebrate being thankful for. I had no idea about his parents… what a dilemma he’s had to deal with. I hope he takes solace in the fact he undoubtedly makes them very proud. The most amazing thing I’ve found in my just over 2 years of being a parent is the joy you get from your child’s accomplishments. He can be assured he’s given his parents a lot to be thankful for.
    Damn, on that note I don’t feel like I can get into the eternal USMNT midfield debate.
    Ream and Goodson are looking promising at CB. Mo for CDM.

    Reply

  10. Posted by jhg on 2010/11/26 at 7:45 AM

    Solid interview. In-depth. I could do without the self-referential commentaries, but whatever. Please keep this sort of content coming. It is PRECISELY what Soccer By Ives fails to deliver – that site just spouts opinion or links to news sites, and then the fans take over with uneducated rants. I like my content edited. I like the access you provide. Please focus on this going forward and you will have my devotion.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Faith on 2010/11/26 at 11:25 AM

    Great interview! I like him even more now than I did before. (= We have some seriously classy guys on our national team.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Drew Campbell on 2010/11/26 at 9:38 PM

    Mo has had a bad time with injuries but towards the end of last season and the beginning of this season he is showing what an important player he is for my team Rangers.Ihope he is every bit as successful as our last USA player Claudio Reyna

    Reply

  13. Posted by Jt Bruce on 2010/11/27 at 2:44 AM

    We have been lucky enough to have two great US players at Rangers.

    Claudio Reyna and now Mo Edu

    In my eyes Mo has improved year after year with us, he is a very popular player at Ibrox. And that is saying something as Ibrox can be a very critical arena when things do not go right.

    Reply

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