Fresh off his first training session as a member of the Philadelphia Union, midfielder Maurice Edu and two top Philadelphia front office men met with the media.
CEO Nick Sakiewicz and manager John Hackworth were on hand to talk with the media in a press conference that was a little different than your standard “Welcome this DP to America” talk. For one thing, there was the Union’s wrestling with MLS over Edu’s pay and the player’s not-so-sunny time spent in Europe to consider.
First, Edu, who wasn’t shy enough to admit, nor naive enough not to admit that, “the past couple years weren’t ideal. Obviously I would’ve like to play more.” He was asked about his frustrations after leaving a decent time with Rangers in Scotland to be little used by Stoke City and did not hesitate to say how badly he wanted to be an every-match player:
“It’s always frustrating as a player when you don’t play. In this game, you have to be mentally tough because it’s just full of ups and downs. One day you can be on a high, the next you can be on the worst spell of your career.
“Don’t get too down when you hit a low and at the same time when you’re on a high, just make sure you stay level-headed, you maintain a level of composure and a sense of humbleness.”
“I’m eager. This past couple years have been difficult and I haven’t put together a long stretch of games. I’m excited to come here and play, play every game. Do well, score goals, get stuck in on tackles, do all the things that I’m capable of doing.”
Sakiewicz danced around some questions a little bit, perhaps understandably so considering his team was ready to pay Edu a higher figure than MLS preferred. He mentioned that to sign three guys right after the season ended would’ve been foolish.
“We had to find the right guys and today I’m very excited to welcome Maurice to our club. It’s been a long, long journey and we’re delighted that he chose to come back from the Premier League.”
Manager John Hackworth’s excitement comes from working with Edu in the past.
“I had the good fortune of coaching Mo on the national team. He’ll be an integral part of our team moving forward. He knows the MLS well. He started his career here but he’s in his prime and I know how excited he is to be here.”
He also admitted the process of bringing him back was a trying experience.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t,” he said. “Anytime you go through a major acquisition of a player, especially bringing a national team back from Europe, there are so many things that have to happen right to make it a reality. You have to be patient.”
There was also a lot of talk about the progression of the league, as Edu spoke of the increasing reputation of MLS around Europe. Sakiewicz added that the league’s upward trending will only continue.
“If you think we’re having fun now, wait another 10 years,” Sakiewicz said. “This country’s really come a long way.”