Union

Union's Maurice Edu embracing adversity in 1st-team comeback

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Union's Maurice Edu embracing adversity in 1st-team comeback

Away from MLS game action for nearly two years, Maurice Edu has learned a little something about himself.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve been a pretty strong-minded person and I’ve dealt with other adversity throughout the course of my career,” he told the media on Tuesday. “It’s another challenge. But when put in situations that are unexpected, it brings out parts of you that you maybe didn’t even know you had.”

The veteran midfielder, moving from one year-long leg injury to another, hasn’t played an MLS match since Sept. 20, 2015. But the road back hit a milestone on Sunday, when Edu made a start for the Union’s minor-league club, the Bethlehem Steel. 

He logged 32 minutes and completed all 17 attempted passes in a defensive midfield position.

“It doesn’t make sense to dwell on things that have happened in the past because it takes the energy I need to put into other things,” he said. “So I’m just focused on what’s happening here and now for me, focusing on conquering every challenge that’s put in front of me every day.”

Though he never wavered, no one could blame Edu for losing his spark. The 31-year-old’s mental mettle was thoroughly tested over the last two seasons as he was hampered with leg injuries. In late 2015, Edu suffered a stress fracture that abruptly ended his season. One year later, just as he was ready to make his long-awaited return, he broke his left fibula. He’s been out ever since.

“I felt I’ve always been mentally strong but this has definitely challenged me in ways that are slightly different,” he said. “I’ve kind of had to play a waiting game and just be patient and be smart and also be smart with the thoughts I have in my head and how I channel my energy.”

On Sunday, Edu’s comeback began. And for him, it was just the beginning of something big.

“I’m happy because this year’s been hell,” Edu said. “Definitely happy with that. But the real excitement will be when I walk out on the pitch with the first team. Baby steps. A longer process than maybe I anticipated. Pleased with that but at the end of the day, my focus and my goal is to play with the first team. It’s not to be content to just be back fit, be back training or be back playing with the Steel.”

But that plan won’t be a given. The Union are currently stacked at the No. 6, No. 8 and center back spots, forcing Edu, currently in less-than-preseason form, to work through a number of players on the depth chart to make his dream first-team debut.

“He has some real competition,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Haris (Medunjanin), (Alejandro) Bedoya, (Warren) Creavalle, Derrick Jones, Brian Carroll, you can go through the list of guys he’s behind on the depth chart because they’re on Week 24 of the season and he’s on Week 1. He has still some work to do to get over that next barrier.”

Getting over that barrier means getting fit and up to game speed. 

“He has to work his way back to 90 minutes of fitness, which is hard for a guy who’s missed almost going on two seasons now worth of games,” Curtin said. “It’s great for him to get that first 30 minutes under his belt, connect his passes, gain the confidence he can do it again. Now he has to work his way to start for 90 minutes for the Steel. From there, we can then talk about being in the 18 for us.”

After two years away from meaningful soccer, Edu is ready for the challenge.

“These are all steps along the way,” he said. “To get to the bigger picture.”

Accam ends scoring drought, Union beat Crew

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Accam ends scoring drought, Union beat Crew

CHESTER, Pa. -- David Accam scored two first-half goals and added a second-half assist to help the Philadelphia Union beat the Columbus Crew 3-0 on Saturday night.

Accam opened the scoring in the 31st minute, ending a scoring drought that went back to July 11. He took Fafa Picault's through ball and finished inside the far post.

Accam capitalized on a defensive miscue to make it 2-0 for the Union (1-2-1) in the 41st minute and assisted as Ilsinho capped the scoring in the 48th.

The Crew (2-1-1) were without Gyasi Zardes and Will Trapp due to U.S. national team duty.

Union pick up first point of season, tie Atlanta United

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Union pick up first point of season, tie Atlanta United

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — Ezequiel Barco came on in the 67th minute and scored three minutes later to help Atlanta United tie the Philadelphia Union 1-1 on Sunday night.

Defending champion Atlanta used a series of quick passes to move to ball from the left to the right side where Julian Gressel first-timed a high entry and Barco side-netted a header inside the far post.

Brenden Aaronson, an 18-year-old homegrown making his MLS debut, ripped a right-footer that, as it went through the legs of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, deflected off the defender's leg past goalkeeper Brad Guzan to give Philadelphia the lead in the 47th minute.

Atlanta had 71.4-percent possession — finishing with 669 passes compared to just 267 by the Union — but came up empty on a handful of chances. Josef Martinez, who set an MLS record with 31 goals last season, missed wide left on a shot early in the second half and later had his bicycle shot stopped by goalkeeper Andre Blake.