Maurice Edu grimaces as he falls to the ground at the EA Sports office and immediately grabs his right leg. Sounds like a story straight from the Madden curse, but Edu is on the cover of FIFA 09. It's a different kind of football. These things aren't supposed to happen. The curse can't cross covers.
Luckily for Edu's new team in the Scottish Premier League, the injury is fake. "They told me to act hurt. To put a lot of emotion into it," says Edu, obviously gunning for an Oscar. "They wanted to motion-capture an injury, so I just fell and gave them all I had."
That's right, these days motion-captured goals and slide tackles aren't enough. Now EA Sports has their cover athletes flopping to the floor in skintight spandex in order to bring home the most realistic injuries soccer gaming has ever seen.
And it's something that has obviously resonated across the globe as FIFA 09 sold over a million copies in Europe its first week in stores, making it the fastest selling game in FIFA series history.
"The passion the European fans have for the game, have for the sport is unbelievable," explains Edu. "I try to soak it up every day while I'm over there. That's one thing this game really represents. I've been playing FIFA since I was a kid and I always dreamed of one day having a character in the game. Now that it's reality, I'm just really excited. My brother is a big gamer and we're always talking smack. I just need to make sure I never lose, especially when I'm playing as myself.
"When I play as me, I'm looking for the hat trick."
Here's what else Edu had to say about playing overseas, his video game, and the future of MLS.
ESPN: What's your experience been like since you've been overseas?
Maurice Edu: It's been hectic. There was a lot of travel at first going back and forth and playing for the U.S. team, but now things are starting to get settled. I had about a month to see the city and get a place. Luckily, DaMarcus Beasley is out there too, and he's another American, so he has been showing me around, helping me adjust. One thing I couldn't bring with me, though, were my video games. They have different plugs out there so I need to get that squared away. I need to play online.
ESPN: What made you decide that now was the right time to test your game overseas?
Maurice Edu: I always had aspirations to play overseas, so when this opportunity came up, I just wanted to make sure it was a good fit. It's still so early in my career, so I figured there was a lot I could learn by going to a huge club like this. There are going to be a lot of benefits in terms of my game and this is a great way for me to progress in my career and as a player. When you train day-in and day-out with quality players, it makes you better. Having competition for your position on the field really makes you step your game up. That's the situation I'm in right now. I'm battling to get on the field.
ESPN: What does it mean to you to be named to the U.S. roster for the World Cup qualifier?
Maurice Edu: It's a huge honor and a great privilege any time you put on those USA colors. It's a huge sense of pride because you're representing your family, yourself, and your country. Whenever I get these opportunities, I never take them for granted. I want to work as hard as I can to help my team get the win. That's been the whole mentality of our camp. We're all here to make each other better. For all the younger guys, getting together like this is great for our progression, not only individually, but as a team as we try to move forward. The coaches have really emphasized how great of an opportunity this is for us younger players and that's why it's so important that we have these camps. The more we can play together and the more we can apply what we've learned as a team, the better we will be.
ESPN: As a gamer, what's it like to spend the day at EA Sports? Is it like going to Disneyland?
Maurice Edu: Pretty much. I felt like a kid in a candy store, especially since they gave me the opportunity to really be hands-on and let me be involved in the creation of the game. It's an unreal experience. I put on the mo-cap suit and they had me go through the various dribbles, taking shots, and different little skill moves. It was great to be able to add in my own personality, my own personal flair to my character in the game. The suit was a little tight, but at least I still felt mobile. I don't think I ever pictured myself in a spandex suit, but it was a good time. [laughs]
ESPN: What, you don't have one of those suits at home?
Maurice Edu: Yeah, right. [laughs]
ESPN: How realistic do you think the game is compared to what you see out on the field in real life?
Maurice Edu: I think every year it gets more and more realistic. You have to keep it in perspective, it is a video game, but from that standpoint, it's the closest to being real than any other sports game out there. From the way the players move to the way you can take the first touch and take it a different direction to the way the players jostle for position and celebrate and react to the referees and the fans, it's incredible.
ESPN: How old school of a gamer are you?
Maurice Edu: First system I had was Nintendo. I was hooked on Duck Hunt. I remember playing a lot of Mario Bros. and Mega Man, but Duck Hunt, I couldn't get enough of that. These days, I mostly play my PS3. I love FIFA, play a little Madden, but I also really like Metal Gear Solid and Call of Duty. But I think FIFA is an important game, especially in the U.S., because hopefully more kids can learn about the sport through the video game. If kids can play the game and like it, it might cause them to go out and play soccer for real, and that could really help grow the sport.
ESPN: What made you stick with soccer from such an early age?
Maurice Edu: Everyone in my family was really into soccer, so I was pretty much born into it. I started playing at a young age, and even though I played other sports, I really didn't take anything else seriously. Soccer was serious. I just fell in love with it at a young age and since then, I always had a ball around me. It's what I've always wanted to do. I'm basically living my dream.
ESPN: You played in MLS before heading overseas. Why do you think the league hasn't caught on?
Maurice Edu: I think the league is still a fairly new league but it's making good strides forward and improving every year in terms of fan base and attendance and quality of play. If you look at the players like Blanco and Beckham, these guys are giving credibility to the league and showing that the league is not that far behind. It's still early on for the league, but it's making progress and is headed in the right direction. It's a slow process, but it's growing.
ESPN: Can soccer in the U.S. grow if all of the best young players go to Europe instead of staying in MLS?
Maurice Edu: I think the more players head overseas, it actually shows the strength of what we have. Obviously you've seen players like Freddy Adu head overseas, and it shows that the league does produce good players. I think players going overseas is good for U.S. soccer because if they go over and do well, people ask where they come from, and they're coming from MLS. The league can't be too far behind if its players are going overseas and doing well.
ESPN: FIFA features a mode called Be a Pro. What's one thing about being a pro the average fan might not realize?
Maurice Edu: You always train in the morning, then maybe you have an appearance for the team. Either that, or you have to go to EA and wear spandex. [laughs]