Four years ago, Maurice Edu and Ricardo Clark lined up next to each other on the same USMNT squad in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The pair battled for the same minutes in midfield and ultimately ended up sharing the load in then-U.S. head coach Bob Bradley’s midfield.
One of the lasting memories of that tournament was Edu replacing Clark in an eventual World Cup ending loss to Ghana. Since, the pair has seen their careers take similar paths. Both moved around Europe and their time with the USMNT has become sparse.
Despite a three-year age gap, the two central midfield bulldogs have had similar journeys bringing both back to MLS: Clark with the Houston Dynamo and Edu with the Philadelphia Union. Saturday (3 p.m. CT, CSN Plus) they will share the same field again, this time on opposite sides as the two Eastern Conference clubs battle and Clark knows Edu will pose a big threat.
“To be fair it’s happened to a couple players, but he started his path earlier than me, but he’s been on the right path,” Clark said of the pair’s similar career trajectory. “He’s had a good path for himself and hopefully he continues his success.
“He has experience and he’s obviously shown himself with the national team and at the club level,” Clark continued. “He’s going to be tough to deal with and we’re going to have to contain him and that’s going to be a task for us.”
Back in MLS where both careers started, Edu and Clark are filling similar roles with their respective clubs as hard-charging cogs in the middle of talented midfields. The sheer work ethic and ability to cover ground makes any potential match-up between the two one to watch.
However, the fact that both have rounded out their games will add another dimension. Clark and Edu have both refined their attacking games from where they were in 2010. Both have added a dimension in passing and the ability to get forward and deliver with late charging runs.
It is something Clark has noticed in his former World Cup teammate: “He has the same abilities, just a little more refined and experienced. He’s shown he’s been able to be a goal scorer with Philly and he covers ground and he’s a tough player to play against. That’s something we’re going to have to contain.”
Spectators could see the difference if the two go head to head often Saturday with Clark possibly pushing higher to help pick up the slack if Dynamo playmaker Brad Davis, who is listed as doubtful again this week due to an ankle sprain, cannot go.
It could be a battle of similar parts, but for Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall, Clark’s experience makes the comparison tough but the match-up exciting.
“I think what Rico’s done, it’s going to take Maurice a long time to accomplish what Rico’s done here,” Hall said. “Both guys are going to work hard and try and shut down a lot of the attack from the other team. They're just disruptive players. It’ll make for a good battle. I wouldn’t be surprised if those two guys are some of the most tired after 90 minutes.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.