Maurice Edu has met the enormous expectations in his first season for the Union, but what has been surprising is that he has excelled at two positions.
The 2010 U.S. World Cup member has been a midfielder for virtually his entire career, but this season he has shifted to defense at times, because of injuries or, most recently, national team duty.
In Wednesday's 1-0 Major League Soccer win over visiting Toronto FC, Edu played center back with Carlos Valdes away with the Colombian national team.
The Union earned their first shutout after allowing at least one goal in the previous 10 games. And Edu was a major part of the success.
"We put Maurice Edu in the back line as a center back, and, for me, he was excellent tonight," Union interim manager Jim Curtin said after the game. "He was one of the best players on the field."
Edu, an all-star in his first year with the Union, has made no secret that he prefers playing in the midfield, Yet, moving to the back hasn't changed his mind-set.
"I think if you go around the dressing room, everyone has a preferred position," Edu said. "At the end of the day, everybody is a professional, and you put your pride and ego aside, and it's about the team."
Edu should remain at center back for Saturday's rematch in Toronto, since Valdes will also miss that game. The Union, Toronto, and Columbus are tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with 33 points. The top five teams will earn a playoff spot.
Edu's greatest strength in the back is his composure. He's an outstanding communicator with his teammates, a true quarterback of the defense.
"I feel you can cut down errors and make things easier for yourself by communicating more, and that is what I try to do," he said.
He is a communicator while playing any position, but , Edu said it is more important while performing in the back, since he is part of the last line of defense.
"Any kind of error is a lot more dangerous because of your positioning, so being tuned in a lot, communicating a lot, and being vocal with the guys around you, is always vital," Edu said.
While he's on the back line, Edu has a simple philosophy.
"If you are playing out of position and it leads to victories," Edu said, "I don't think anybody is going to have complaints."
What: Major League Soccer,
Union (8-9-9, 33 points) at Toronto FC (9-10-6, 33)
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Where: BMO Field, Toronto
TV: The Comcast Network.
Union on the road: 3-7-4; Toronto at home: 5-5-2.
Goals for: Union, 41; Toronto, 35.
Goals against: Union, 41; Toronto, 40.
Last MLS game: The Union beat Toronto, 1-0, on Wednesday at PPL Park.
Outlook: Leading Toronto scorer Jermain Defoe, who has 11 goals, missed the Union game with a groin injury and is not expected back for the rematch. Toronto also will be without defender Ashtone Morgan, who received a red card on Wednesday after tackling Sebastien Le Toux to stop a breakaway. . . . The Union are 5-2-3 in MLS games since Jim Curtin was hired as interim manager. . . . Union midfielder Vincent Nogueira missed Wednesday's game with a leg injury, and his status for Saturday is unknown, Curtin said. This will be the second straight game the Union will be without keeper Rais Mbolhi, defender Carlos Valdes, and midfielder Michael Lahoud, who have national team commitments. . . . Le Toux has a team-high 11 goals for the Union. . . . Le Toux, who had an assist Wednesday, was the best player on the field, playing an outstanding two-way game. - Marc Narducci