MAYBE THE BIGGEST story of the Union's offseason will be what happens to Maurice Edu, especially given that interim coach Jim Curtin will almost definitely have his interim tag officially removed any day now.
Edu, 28, was playing with the Union on loan from his other club, English Premier League's Stoke City. When the Union acquired Edu in January, it was a 1-year loan with an option for the Union to purchase his contract the following year.
At $650,000, Edu was far and away the highest-paid player on the Union roster.
Will the Union and CEO Nick Sakiewicz pay a premium to bring the California-native back to Philadelphia?
"I don't know; that's out of my hands at this point," Edu said yesterday morning after his turn taking his exit interview, with Curtin and the coaching staff. "It's up to the clubs [Stoke and the Union] to come to an agreement."
One thing is certain, Edu enjoyed coming back to his home country to play professionally for the first time since he was the MLS rookie of the year in 2007 after playing collegiately at Maryland.
In the 6 years between his MLS stints, he spent 4 years in Scotland playing for Rangers FC, a year at Stoke City and a brief turn on loan from Stoke with Bursaspor in Turkey. He also made appearances on the U.S. National Team.
Joining Stoke City in the Premier League was the highest point of Edu's career, but a lack of playing time left him wanting more, which he found in the MLS.
"For me it's always been about just playing," Edu said. "I'm the kind of person where I thrive on that type of situation, I thrive on situations where you have to prove yourself. That was the case with me, I wasn't playing with Stoke and I had the opportunity to come here.
"I didn't want to just come and just play, I wanted to try to make an impact. I said from the beginning, I wanted to try to help this team do something special this year and I wanted to try to be a leader on this team."
And a leader he was. He wore the captain's armband for much of the second half of the season. Edu was used as a center back and a central midfielder throughout the year and was third on the team in total minutes played with 2,789 - playing in 31 of the Union's 34 games. He scored three goals and had two assists.
With the influx of international talent coming into the MLS yearly, Edu thinks there are many reasons why staying in the league is the best option for him. Next year, expansion club Orlando City will welcome Brazilian star Kaka at a hefty price of $7 million. Spanish stalwart David Villa will join expansion New York City FC, where he'll team up with English and EPL legend Frank Lampard.
"For me it's unbelievable," Edu said of the league's growth. "I started my career here and I've always said I wanted to come back at some point. And even while I was away, I was still keeping tabs on the league. This is where I got my start so obviously it's a place that I hold very dear to my heart, I guess you could say."
Edu is hopeful that the Union brass keep the club mostly together, which Edu believes will put the team in a position to be successful. He is encouraged with how the team played in the second half, despite missing the playoffs by one spot.
That second-half spurt came after the Union relieved John Hackworth of his coaching duties in mid-June and slid Curtin in from assistant to interim coach.
"Guys bought into what he wanted to achieve and the style and direction he wanted to take the team," Edu said. "I think you saw the benefit of that. You can't really argue with numbers and his numbers speak for themselves."
Now the question remains whether the Union and Stoke City can agree to financial numbers on Edu.