BEIJING (Aug. 11, 2008) -- Imagine Kobe Bryant playing center during the Olympics. Or Tyson Gay running the 10,000 meters instead of the 100 meters.
How would they fair?
They’d struggle to say the least. They’ve mastered a certain position or event, and wouldn’t think of changing things up, especially not at the Olympics.
For one Olympic athlete, Maurice Edu, he’s done just that, moving from his normal center midfield role, which he plays with Toronto FC in Major League Soccer, to center back for the U.S. Men’s Olympic Soccer team.
While Edu’s change of positions might not be as drastic as the above examples, it’s still a difficult transition. But for ‘Mo,’ as he’s called by his teammates, it’s been smooth sailing through the team’s first two games.
“I’ve felt good out there for the first two games,” said Edu. “I know I can also do things better, but with the three guys I have around me and Brad (Guzan) behind me, I feel pretty confident as an entire defense.”
U.S. Men’s Olympic Team head coach Peter Nowak’s decision to move Edu to the backline was part need, as defenders Jonathan Spector and Nathan Sturgis are both injured, and part realization that the former University of Maryland star could perform at a high level in the position.
“I think he’s done well in the back,” said Nowak. “He’s partnered very well with Michael Parkhurst and he’s comfortable with Marvell (Wynne). Some people questioned the move, but it has been a very good transition.”
Edu admits the backline position isn’t entirely new to him as he’s played center back a handful of times in college, as a professional, and even with the Under-23s leading up to the Olympics.
“I played a little bit in qualifying, but I also played in midfield during qualifying,” said Edu. “(Nathan) Sturgis got injured and (Jonathan) Spector is out, so there’s a little bit of a need there. They feel confident in me back there, and I feel confident playing there.”
Edu says there are a number of challenges playing in a somewhat unfamiliar position, but he doesn’t think it’s more than he can handle. He has been one of the many bright spots on a U.S. team that has four points after their first two games, including an impressive 2-2 draw against the Netherlands. He knows whether he’s playing on the back or in the midfield, what matters the most is the final result.
"I just want to win games, so if that means we're going to win then I'm happy there," he said.
So, does Edu see himself playing center back when he returns to Toronto FC or with the full Men’s National Team? Not so fast.
“We’ll have to see about that,” he said smiling. “I like playing midfield, but who knows. It all depends where the coaches need me to play.”