EDU PRIMED FOR STRETCH RUN
Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu says he is out to add more silverware to his current collection as Rangers enters the stretch drive of their season seeking titles in four different competitions.
Edu and Rangers are currently alive in the Europa League which resumes later this month, the Scottish Cup where they will face a fifth round replay against Celtic in March, the Scottish League Cup final in March which sees them in another duel with their Old Firm rivals and lastly the Scottish Premier League which concludes in May.
In total, the Light Blues will have faced Celtic seven times before this season ends. Their third encounter was this past Sunday in the Scottish Cup where Rangers let a halftime lead slip away to the Hoops in a match that ended 2-2 much to Edu's disappointment.
"We started off the game well and the onus was on us to win since we were playing at home, but we should have done a better job of closing it out," Edu recently told YA.
This year has marked a change at Ibrox with the departures of star strikers Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller leading many to question whether or not Rangers had the mettle to withstand such a drastic shift of personnel.
When pressed on the subject, California native is adamant that any changes within the squad should not change the mentality in how the team approaches each match and that pressure should always be assumed when you don a Rangers uniform.
"The pressure is going to be on us to win in every game," he noted. "We're not here to make excuses. We're here to win and to have more opportunities to win trophies. We might have a smaller squad but we still have started out the season well and if we just focus on us and not everyone else, we'll be fine."
Edu adds that with the core group of veterans like Dave Weir, Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith still in tact on the squad, there have been no issues for new arrivals El Hadji Diouf, Kyle Bartley and Kevin Healy to adapt to the club's high standards.
"I think it's a fairly similar dynamic," Edu explained. "We came together more as a team and everyone has taken well to the new guys. Our chemistry is good and there is more to look forward to. Everyone wants to play for trophies and when you come to a club like Rangers you'll always have an opportunity to do that so we're ready."
Edu even had his name come up in rumors during the transfer window where several English publications linked him to a move to the Premier League, yet any discussion to address a potential move away from Ibrox is quickly brushed off by the 24 year old.
"I can't even think about it right now," Edu said about a potential transfer this summer. "When you start thinking about leaving, that's when you lose your focus on the field. I'm just worried about doing well at Rangers and me personally, I'm enjoying the moment I'm in which is playing on this team and playing for titles."
While this is Edu's third season in Glasgow, it was his first time to play in European competition as Rangers finished third in the group stage of the Champions League which automatically qualified them for the round of 32 of the Europa League.
The former Toronto FC man experienced the rollercoaster ride of emotions that come with European play when he scored a goal to put Rangers ahead of Valencia in an October match only to then suffer the fate of an own-goal in that same contest.
Still, Edu views his initial experience in the continental competition as a positive one.
"For me, it was a great experience especially after missing out in my first two seasons," he said of playing in the Champions League. "I really enjoyed it and I think I made the most of it. Obviously I got a little unfortunate versus Valencia but that's soccer. I'm really looking forward to the Europa League and hopefully we can put together a run like the team did a couple years ago when they made the UEFA Cup final."
Once the SPL season concludes, it stands to reason that US national team coach Bob Bradley will once again call on Edu to help form his squad for this summer's Gold Cup.
Many of the familiar faces from last year's World Cup team in South Africa are sure to be part of Bradley's roster, however new names like Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury and Mikkel Diskerud are expected to receive a serious look as well.
For Edu, watching these young players receive an opportunity to play internationally for the US, he can see a lot of similarities in how he became ingrained within the US senior team.
"I saw the past couple of games and I think the young guys are doing well," Edu said of the past two USMNT friendlies. "It's a lot like how I was when I first got to start playing for the national team so I'm sure they are all relishing the opportunity especially at this stage of their careers."
The American midfielder does concede a little that his thoughts have drifted a bit toward this summer's Gold Cup where in all likelihood, the US will be faced with another big-time encounter versus Mexico.
No on has to tell Edu that ‘El Tri' boast plenty of talent especially on the offensive side of the ball with attackers Giovanni Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and of course Javier ‘Chicharito' Hernandez who is experiencing a successful first season at Manchester United.
It is a challenge that Edu feels like he and the rest of the USMNT are up for and that they are looking forward to potentially take on their long-time CONCACAF rivals.
"The young Mexican players are talented, quality players and definitely pose a threat," concluded Edu. "Chicharito is doing well and he's really the one that stands out the most. But we look forward to playing against Mexico and everyone else in the Gold Cup. It's a tough tournament with other good teams besides Mexico. It's an important tournament so this is a big year for us."
Edu and Rangers resume SPL action this weekend when they host Motherwell.