When Maurice Edu thinks of Toronto FC, he thinks of seat cushions flying through the air after he scored his first ever professional goal. It was May 2007, and he had just sealed the club's first ever victory, making the score 3-1 against the Chicago Fire.
"They had to delay the game a little bit so they could go on to the pitch and clean [the seat cushions] up," recalls Edu to Waking The Red. "It was an unbelievable day."
Eight years later, Edu will be facing a familiar opponent today as Toronto, his first ever professional club, comes to his new home to play his new club, the Philadelphia Union. Even after all of those years, playing against Toronto is still special for the 29-year-old veteran.
"It always will be," he explains. "Toronto is the city and the team that gave me a chance to realize a dream of mine which was to become a professional player."
Edu acknowledges that a lot has happened to the city and the team since he left, but thinks they are finally making progress in the right direction. He cites an ownership committed and willing to invest in the team and the club's new high profile names and infrastructure like the KIA training grounds as evidence.
"Now it's just a matter of giving the team a chance to get on the same page and start to click," Edu says. "I think they have talented players and a quality organization."
He won't be looking for too much nostalgia, however, as this match is incredibly important to his club: the Union have six points through their first nine games. Not exactly the start they were looking for, but Edu remains optimistic a win against TFC can turn things around.
"Three points in our conference is massive, it puts you right back in the mix," he explains, "and if we can get three points and go on a run from there we can climb the table pretty quickly."
After Edu spent 2007 and half of 2008 with Toronto FC, he decided to take his career abroad. In 2008 he joined well known Scottish Premier League side Rangers. After four seasons there he moved to the English Premier League with Stoke City.
He never really caught on in England, and a year later decided to return to square one and Major League Soccer. The thing is, square one had gotten a lot bigger and better since Edu left. He noticed the difference right away.
"The league has really grown on all levels into what we had hoped it would be," Edu says. "You see the number of players coming over here now, you see the Kakas, the Giovincos, the Lampards, guys that are coming over here that are still quality players, who still have a lot to add to the league."
American internationals, like Edu, have been returning as well. Clint Dempsey and Jermain Jones join the Toronto pair of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore as the other notable returnees. In fact a big part of Edu's role today will be trying to shut down Altidore, his national team teammate.
"He's a big, strong guy but he also has a lot of good technique as well," says Edu of his friend Altidore. "So hopefully the fact that I played against him for a while, and the fact that I know him as a player [will help]. But it's definitely going to be a challenge."
Edu also cited fan culture, which has expanded throughout the league, as something that has completely changed while he was gone. He acknowledged how good Toronto's supporters have always been, and how they set the standard in many ways.
However, while he says they were good to him in his time in Toronto, today he won't exactly be looking out for their best interests.
"I'm looking to piss off some Toronto fans by beating them," he says with a laugh.