April 13, 2007 Toronto FC vs New England Revolution preview (from Toronto Star)

Top draft pick Edu set to go as TFC faces Revolution

Rookie's return from injury boost for the midfield

Apr 13, 2007 04:30 AM
Morgan Campbell

For months, every time Maurice Edu made a sharp cut or kicked a soccer ball he felt a sharp pain shooting through his midsection.

At first he wasn't sure where the pain was, but knew it radiated from a spot below his waist, but above his groin. Eventually he learned he had a microscopic crack in his pelvic bone that would turn into a stress fracture if he didn't take time off.

The injury didn't stop Edu, a six-foot midfielder, from leading the University of Maryland to the NCAA round of 16 last November. Nor did it prevent him from becoming the first overall pick in the MLS draft in January. But it has kept him from practising or playing with Toronto FC.

Until this week.

And when Toronto FC visits the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Mass., tomorrow in search of the first win in franchise history, the team's top draft pick is finally ready for his first game action.

"It was frustrating, especially as a rookie because I'm really eager and anxious to get out there with the team," Edu said after practice yesterday.

"But (this week) has been real encouraging. Going the full length of practice is a big jump from sitting and watching every day."

Edu's return brings relief to a midfield that's missing starter Ronnie O'Brien out at least two more weeks with a knee injury and that struggled in Toronto's season-opening loss to Chivas USA last Saturday.

Coach Mo Johnston said that with our without Edu, the team's midfielders would need to improve their conditioning if they expect to compete with New England, runner-up for the MLS Cup last season. He says fatigue caused his team, and especially the midfield, to falter in the second half of last week's game.

"They're quality players, but we gave the ball away too much in certain areas, and we tired," Johnston said. "Tired legs give balls away."

Johnston isn't sure Edu will play tomorrow, but thinks the rookie is ready to contribute.

"Will we put him in there? I think it may be a little too early," Johnston said. "Can he give us 20-25 minutes? Possibly."

Edu himself isn't sure how much he will play, but admits he's a little worried about his conditioning.

The only way to heal his injury was to rest, so while his teammates spent much of the winter in two-a-day practice sessions, Edu paced the sidelines. He only resumed serious running in late March and says he's at only about 70 per cent of full strength.

"The more fit I get, the more comfortable I'll be," he said. "I won't have to worry about how tired I'll be in the next five minutes. I'll be able to play more free. But technically I need to get better because my touch is crap right now."

Nevertheless, Edu has impressed his midfield mentor, Carl Robinson, whom Toronto signed in February in part to help Edu develop.

"He's looked sharp," Robinson said. "He's got an old head on young shoulders. He knows the game. He's a fit lad. He knows how to play."

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