U.S. national team fixture Maurice Edu's performance in central defense against Mexico a couple of months ago was a calculated experiment. As it turned out, it yielded the results USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping to see and, as a result, it set the foundation for Edu's international future.
Edu partnered with current Stoke City teammate Geoff Cameron to anchor the USA defense in the historic August victory over Mexico at Estadio Azteca, helping maintain the clean sheet in the surprise 1-0 result while defending the likes of Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and drawing rave reviews from Klinsmann in the process. His play was impressive enough in Klinsmann's eyes to the point that after playing all of his club career in central midfield and the vast majority of his international career there as well, Edu's future may very well be in central defense.
"He is a very serious option for us as a center back going forward," Klinsmann said on Monday's conference call with reporters. "The way he managed the game in Mexico City was the way we hoped to see him. That's why we tried it out."
Edu, 26, provides another young complement at center back for Klinsmann with 33-year-old captain Carlos Bocanegra and 30-year-old Clarence Goodson gradually aging and with 30-year-old former stalwart Oguchi Onyewu lingering on the fringe of the national team picture after a disappointing showing during the May and June camp and matches. Cameron, 27, is an emerging starter for the USA, while other prospects such as Los Angeles Galaxy anchor Omar Gonzalez, Bolton's Tim Ream and San Luis' Michael Orozco Fiscal, who scored the game-winner at Azteca, remain on the outskirts as well.
The Mexico game was Edu's first time playing center back in almost two years, previously doing so under Bob Bradley in a friendly against Poland in circumstances far different than in Estadio Azteca against rival Mexico. Given the United States' wealth of central midfielders who play Edu's position and the opportunity Edu may have to carve his niche internationally in defense, the move could feasibly open up a whole new set of doors for the California native, who was a former overall No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft and collegiate standout at the University of Maryland prior to heading overseas to Rangers in 2008.
Edu just needs to ensure that he maintains a regular place at Stoke City to stay in the good graces of Klinsmann, who values club playing time for players who have not reached that tier of automatic call-ups. After biding his timing following a deadline-day transfer from embattled Scottish club Rangers, Edu just made his Premier League debut for Stoke City over the weekend, coming on as an 80th-minute substitute for Charlie Adam to help put the final touches on the club's 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield.
"Mo right now is going through his initial stages in Stoke City and has to break into the team," Klinsmann said. "He finally got on the field in the last game. He hasn't had enough playing minutes over the last couple of weeks that we hoped he would have, but he's on the right track."
With Stoke City, like the USA, having an abundance of central midfielders, it only benefits Edu to expand his positional options. Doing so will help increase his value to both Klinsmann - who acknowledged the option to rotate him in the Nos. 6 and 8 midfield slots as well - and Stoke boss Tony Pulis as he embarks on this next phase of his playing career.