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Q & A: U.S. Men's National Team Midfielder Maurice Edu Speaks to from Glasgow

In terms of soccer history and tradition, one needs look no further than the storied clubs in Glasgow and the massive rivalry that is the Old Firm. Since his arrival at Rangers, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu has been doing his best to add his name to their scrap books. After scoring a stoppage-time game-winner against Old Firm rivals Celtic, he buried another last-gasp effort last week against Sporting Lisbon that put Rangers through to the Round of 16 of the Europa League. Mo has managed to battle back from injuries to carve out consistent playing time for the Light Blues, and with a title race in Scotland sure to go down to wire and a critical tournament with the national team ahead this summer, he is gearing up for the ride … How are things going in the west end of Glasgow?
Maurice Edu: “Things are going pretty good. We’re in second place now in the table and trying to gradually work our way back to the top. So far things are working out well and I’m just enjoying things.” Last Wednesday at Sporting Lisbon, your team is losing 2-1 and need a goal to make it through to the next round of the Europa League. You end up scoring the game-tying goal in the 92nd minute that puts your team through. Take us through that play.
ME: “It was a big moment in the game for us. Before that we were playing well and didn’t expect to give up the go-ahead goal. I think any team could have won at that point, so when we gave up the goal we still felt like we were definitely involved in the game and we could get something out of it. We pushed some bodies forward, and the ball was played wide and David Healy put in a good ball. At that moment I was just focused on getting myself on the end of the play and fortunately for me I got myself in the right place at the right time. Obviously by tying that game we advanced because of away goals. It was a big moment for the team, and has big implications for the SPL as well in terms of an extra spot in the Champions League in 2013.” You lost to Celtic 1-0 two days ago in the Scottish FA Cup. You’ve already played them several times this year, and the rivalry is world renowned, so no surprise that tempers started to flare at the end of the game.
ME: “Yes, obviously those games have a lot of importance, not just to us as players but to the staff and fans as well. A lot of emotion and passion is definitely reflected through our performance. In some cases, our emotions did get the better of us and it was reflected through the performance and some of the things that happened off the ball and off the field. Overall, I thought we worked hard and despite going a man down earlier in the game and losing a man late in the game we showed a lot of character, determination and desire and we were unfortunate to lose that game.” You’ve played in several Old Firm matches now and you’ve scored against Celtic. Do you feel at this point in your career you’re starting to become a fabric of the Rangers team and part of that Old Firm rivalry?
ME: “I’d like to think so. I think there’s still more to come. I can still get more goals and still play an important role in the team. I think everyone on our team, especially because we have such a small squad this season, has a role to play in the run for the title. Right now I’m just trying to make sure I stay fit and contribute as much as I can, and I think I can still get more goals from making late runs into the box and trying to influence the game a little bit from that area.” You mention the title race. You’re five points behind Celtic at this point in the season but have two games in hand. What do you think it’s going to take the rest of the way to overtake Celtic and get your third consecutive SPL title?
ME: “It’s going to take consistency. I think both teams have shown points can be dropped. Celtic were on a good run recently, and they dropped points against Motherwell a few days ago so it’s definitely about getting into a level of consistency right now. You need all the points possible. If we go on a good run and finish out the season strong, then as it stands it’s in our hands. We can’t look too far ahead and get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to just stay composed and take it one game at a time, especially because we have a lot of games coming up with us still being involved in Europa League as well.” The U.S. team has two games later this month against Argentina and Paraguay, the last two matches before the Gold Cup roster will be announced later in May. Where do these two matches fit in, not just in the team testing themselves but also in preparations for the tournament this summer?
ME: “Both Argentina and Paraguay are very good sides, and they will be definitely be good warm-up games and good preparation leading into the summer. Also, we know the Gold Cup is a very important tournament for us because it has bigger implications. Winning that would see us into the Confederations Cup, and that’s what our ultimate goal is. Obviously having the chance to play in a major tournament and play in front of our home fans is important. These two friendlies will prepare us, especially because the Egypt game was cancelled. It will be a chance for us to see what kind of squad the coach brings and get back to playing together. We haven’t played together in a while now, so it will be a good to get games under our belt.” The U.S. team played against Argentina in 2008 and that year also included a summer of games against England and Spain. The U.S-Argentina game ended in a 0-0 draw and was a great match at Giants Stadium. What do games like that do for you in terms of confidence personally and as a team?
ME: “Those games are very important because as a player and as a team you always want to play against the best teams in the world and the best players in the world. It’s a test to see where you stand and how you prepare against them. I think in that game we showed well for ourselves. Going into that game most people probably wouldn’t have given us a chance, but we believed in ourselves and our ability as a team and we came out with a fair result. With this game coming up, hopefully we have a similar performance in the sense that we compete well and we show that we deserve to be on the same pitch with those players. Games like this will prepare us well for the summer, which is the most important thing. It’s very important we play games like this and play against big teams and better teams.” You mentioned the Gold Cup coming up this summer. It’s important for the U.S. team, not just because it’s the regional championship but it’s also a chance to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. It’s also your first opportunity to play in the Gold Cup and with so many U.S. players playing well in the midfield, this is also an important opportunity for you as well isn’t it?
ME: “Definitely. I missed out on Gold Cups in the past, so I’m looking forward to this opportunity. I think other players doing well is good for the team. It’s important to have a competitive environment within teams and right now I think we have that, especially in the midfield area. The better that each of us individually are doing will just make the team that much stronger and provide that many more options to choose from. Ultimately, I think most coaches would want that. They want to have a headache and have a hard time selecting the best team to put out there. I think it’s up to us to make their job difficult, and hopefully we’re doing that right now. I’m definitely looking forward to this. It’s a big tournament for us, and I want to play my role in it.”