Take it from someone who's been there from the very first game in Seattle in March 2010 ... the Philadelphia Union have pretty much seen every type of player during the first four years of the team's existence.

We've had dynamic forward play from the likes of Sebastien Le Toux and Carlos Ruiz. We've seen rock-solid goalkeeping from Faryd Mondragon, and we've seen burly defending from Danny Califf and Amobi Okugo.

But with apologies to Brian Carroll (who last year did a great impersonation of 1990 vintage David Platt, who passed the ball laterally or backwards for England) and the mercurial and little-used Roger Torres, we've never had a midfield general who could take over a game.

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A ranger of the moors, so to speak, like Grendel in "Beowulf." Someone to kick keister and take names later ... a box-to-box player with a bit of an offensive edge and an ingrained defensive mindset. They're hard to come by, for sure. Every team wants one.

But there's no doubt every great side has had this component. Think Roy Keane for Manchester United, Patrick Vieira for Arsenal, Yaya Toure for Manchester City, and Zinedine Zidane for Juventus, Real Madrid and France.

In Major League Soccer, the great D.C. United teams from the late 1990s had John Harkes filling that role, and Dwayne DeRosario manned the engine room for the Houston Dynamo championship-winning sides.

Fast forward to this year's Union. President/general manager Nick Sakiewicz and coach John Hackworth spent the last month reshaping the team's often pedestrian midfield. Vincent Nogueira has arrived from France, along with Cristian "Chaco" Maidana from Argentina.

But the prize purchase is certainly Maurice Edu, the 27-year-old player for the United States Men's National Team. Edu was the top pick in the MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC coming out of the University of Maryland, and his talent eventually catapulted him to Europe.

Before they basically disappeared off the footballing map due to financial problems, Scotland-based Rangers were a force to be reckoned with in the UEFA Champions League. By my memory, Edu remains the only American to score a goal in that elite club competition.

Clint Dempsey never got there, and Landon Donovan's cups of coffee with Everton didn't give him that platform. True, Edu's career got stuck when he made the move from Rangers to Stoke of the English Premier League, but that's why his move to the Union makes ultimate sense.

He needs playing time to force his way back into U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann's plans for this summer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the Union requires that marauding player smack dab in the middle of the pitch. A kid with still-young legs, someone whose physicality can change a game.

And let's not forget how boring the Union was to watch at times last season. Management knows this, and this midfield revolution was a conscious effort to change the perception of the team as well as its on-field fortunes. That's not saying Edu is enough to draw the casual fan to PPL Park in Chester, Pa. (the diehards will always come to root for the "jersey.")

But if someone's deciding how to spend his or her Saturday summer night, Edu has a much better chance of packing them over a vanilla player like Carroll. That's not meant to be a knock ... that's just reality. The Union rolled the dice by making Edu a highly played Designated Player, but it's a choice they had to make.

Started at The Press in 1993 as an Ocean County reporter. Moved to the copy desk in 1994 until taking over as editor of At The Shore in 1995. Became deputy sports editor in 2004 and was promoted to sports editor in 2007.

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