Feel free to worry about Maurice Edu’s move to Stoke

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Maurice Edu seemed like a good signing when Stoke City took the U.S. international off Glasgow Rangers’ books this summer. The 26-year-old midfielder called his Premier League switch a dream move, but to this point, the former number one Major League Soccer SuperDraft pick has failed to make an impact on Trent. With only one (substitute’s) appearance in league thus far, the move is starting to look like a step backwards, especially after the 26-year-old midfielder was left out of the Tony Pulis’s 18 for today’s match against Sunderland.

That decision was made despite Stoke starting three central midfielders. That means not only did Edu fail to beat out Charlie Adam, Steve N’Zonzi, and Dean Whitehead, he also couldn’t get onto the bench ahead of Wilson Palacios. True, the versatility of fullbacks Geoff Cameron and Marc Wilson means Pulis doesn’t have to carry many midfielders on the bench, but the bottom line remains the same. Edu is losing time to players he has the potential to beat out.

Choosing Charlie Adam is understandable, particularly considering how Pulis likes to play. Somebody who can hit a good long ball out of his own end may prove particularly valuable for Stoke. Steve N’Zonzi was underrated at Blackburn and does a pretty good impression of Maroune Fellaini (the defensive midfielder version). There’s no shame in losing out to a player who could find time at most clubs.

Dean Whitehead, however, is the concern. Whitehead’s a reliable but limited player, the exact type of midfielder Stoke should be looking to supplant. If you were highlighting places the team needs to improve, it’s on players like Whitehead – the type of dependable but unspectacular contributor that dooms Stoke to playing the style (and getting the results) they do. Lineup all the midfielders from the Championship and skip a rock across their domes and you’ll hit seven Dean Whiteheads before that pebble falls to ground.

It seemed like Edu was bought to transcend those limitations. Edu can be a more athletic, wider ranging, box-to-box option than Whitehead. When sitting on a leda, he can assume the destroyer’s role into which he’s so often pigeon-holed. Late in matches, Edu can serve as a third central defender. In theory, there’s no reason Edu shouldn’t be playing ahead of Dean Whitehead.

But until he can earn time on the field, this theory remains and untested hypothesis, part of a troubling second half of 2012 for the former Maryland standout. The downturn at Rangers forced him to move from Glasgow, while a bad second half foul conceded the U.S.’s qualifier in Kingston has seen him lose time with the national team. Unable to break into Tony Pulis’s gameday squad, it’s unclear when Edu will rebound.

If his time at Rangers is any indication, Edu will rebound. During his initial seasons in Glasgow, injuries kept the former Toronto FC star from making an impact. Eventually, Edu grew into one of the Gers’ most reliable options in the middle. Though his downturn at Stoke isn’t caused by injury, the same determination may be needed to claim a spot.

With FA and League Cup fixtures set to pile up in winter, Edu’s bound to get some chance, even if it’s only off the bench. All he has to do is impress.

FA Cup Final preview: Desperate Arsenal meets Double-seeking Blues

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  • Clubs split PL series
  • Chelsea’s Conte aims for double
  • Chelsea 8W-3D-2L vs. Arsenal since 2012

Arsenal and Chelsea face off with a trophy on the line for the fourth time this century when the London sides hit Wembley Stadium for Saturday’s FA Cup Final.

Arsenal beat Chelsea in the 2015 Community Shield, the first silverware match-up between the two sides since the 2007 League Cup Final in Wales. The Blues won that one, 2-1, while Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in the 2002 FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: Conte open to contract extension ]

A win would be Arsenal’s third FA Cup trophy in four seasons, and Arsenal would be thrilled to put something shiny in its trophy case following a season of tumult at the Emirates Stadium which ended without UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years.

Conte knows Arsenal is desperate for something good.

What they’re saying

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on what a win could mean“We wanted to finish higher up in the league, there is no doubting that. We cannot hide from that and we need to own up to that. The FA Cup is a big trophy, one we want to win and which would definitely boost morale going into next season.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on the match: “If you ask me who is the favorite now, I can tell you it is Arsenal because Arsenal now has the possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason, we must play with great patience. We must find in ourselves the right motivation, the right anger because the game can be very difficult for all of these reasons.”

Prediction

Could go either way, with many players not just glory-hunting but in the shop window. Will Alexis Sanchez be the difference maker? Mesut Ozil? Maybe, but we think Chelsea ratchets up the intensity one more time and claims a double with a 2-1 win.

Chelsea’s Conte open to extending his contract

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Antonio Conte is readying Chelsea for a bid at a season double, with the Blues meeting Arsenal on Saturday afternoon for an all-London FA Cup Final.

Conte is on a London-high himself, having led the Blues to a Premier League title in his first year in charge. He’s moving his family to the area, scooping up plenty of individual hardware, and has dynastic aims for the Stamford Bridge set.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

His first deal was for three years, and Conte is thinking beyond that now.

From the BBC:

“If the club give me the possibility to stay and extend my contract, for sure I’m available to. … We have the same idea about the future, the way we have to do together, to improve the squad and the team.”

How they improve the squad will be interesting, as veterans Cesc Fabregas, Willian, and Diego Costa have uncertain futures at the Bridge. But why wouldn’t Conte sign a bumper new deal after wild first year success?

Off to slow start, Morris, Seattle know “things can change quickly”

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Both Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are off to a rough start in defense of their MLS Cup title last Fall, and the USMNT’s star striker admits to recalling last season’s wild turnaround as an inspiration.

“After the game last week we mentioned that we have a lot of the nucleus from last year and we all know that things can change quickly,” Morris said to ProSoccerTalk this week.

Seattle won just seven games before Matchday 22 last season, rebounding with a burst after coach Sigi Schmid was replaced by assistant Brian Schmetzer. The Sounders went 8-2-2 down the stretch en route to an MLS Cup win over Toronto FC.

While he hasn’t scored in five matches and only has two markers in 12 games, he feels success is coming for the 3W-5L-4T Sounders. Morris said the club knows the results aren’t there, but also that they are producing chances.

[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]

“It’s been okay,” Morris said. “Definitely not the start I would’ve wanted. It’s not an excuse but we’ve hit a lot of posts and had other near misses.”

Seattle has a huge opportunity to flip the script on its season when Cascadia Cup rivals Portland visit on Saturday. The free-scoring Timbers are dangerous in attack, but have been opened up 20 times this season. Only two teams have conceded more goals than Portland (which has played the most matches in the league, it must be said).

And it may or may not surprise fans that Morris’ focus has been one of his strengths: the final product.

“I’m working on the final third, whether it’s shooting or finding the open guy,” Morris said. “It’s a big deal for us to finish our chances. Scoring or the final pass in that final third.”

Despite his relatively cold start, it would be surprising if Bruce Arena didn’t tab Morris in his crop for next month’s World Cup qualifiers. The 22-year-old also seems relatively certain to be a part of the Gold Cup plans.

“I’m excited and hopefully I get called up,” he said. “These World Cup qualifiers are obviously a very big deal and Bruce has done a really good job of getting us on the same page.”

Morris is also participating in a unique promotional activity with Delta Air Lines for Sounders fans, as he and Cristian Roldan are among Seattle players picking fans for “positions” in a Fan XI. Once assembled, they’ll travel to L.A. for a Sounders road match and even sign one-day contracts. Morris was happy to get on board with it.

“It’s for our fans, who are amazing,” he said. “Delta’s idea to make a Fan XI gives the fansa chance to have the behind the scenes experience of being part of a team put together by having different skills. We love rewarding our fans.”

Day Seven: All the action from the U20 World Cup (video)

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Mexico has automatically qualified for the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup despite falling to Venezuela.

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Germany dropped below Mexico in goal differential after allowing a 3-0 lead to sink to one, though El Tri still likely would’ve advanced to the next phase despite Germany’s result.

Mexico 0-1 Venezuela

Caracas 19-year-old striker Sergio Cordova scored for the third-straight match in what is sure to make him a hot summer commodity as Venezuela clinched Group B with a perfect 3-0 record.

Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s potential name of the tournament Bong Kalo scored twice in the second half to sink Germany below Mexico on goal difference.

Guinea 0-5 Argentina

A brace from Lautaro Martínez gives Argentina hope of the knockout rounds with a third-place finish.

England 1-0 South Korea

Everton’s Kieran Dowell scored the lone goal of the match to give England the Group A crown.