For Maurice Edu and Clarence Goodson of the U.S. national team, Monday's training session at Ludwig Field was a throwback, a return to the University of Maryland stomping grounds they once roamed before representing their country at the pinnacle of their sport.
Since playing for Sasho Cirovski's Terrapins program, both players have established themselves as fixtures in the international picture, representing the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2011 Gold Cup, the biennial championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
On Friday, the duo made the cut for coach Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster that will play five games in less than three weeks — three friendlies followed by the team's first two 2014 World Cup qualifiers. After dismissing Scotland 5-1 in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, the U.S. will face a much sterner test in its second friendly when it hosts five-time World Cup champion Brazil at FedEx Field on Wednesday.
"It's great to be able to play the best teams in the world," Goodson said. "That's what you want to do as a professional. You want to be able to see how you measure up and go out there and give it a go, especially when you're able to represent your country and have the flag over your heart. It's an amazing feeling."
Under Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley as coach last July, Edu and Goodson have remained influential role players on the national team.
Edu, a holding midfielder known for his firm tackling and smart distribution, is competing for playing time in perhaps the national team's deepest position after leading Scottish power Rangers with 33 starts in league play this past season.
"The fact that everyone is fighting every day to stay in the lineup or get in the lineup or just get into the squad, it's going to make us a better team going forward," Edu said. "I think you need that. You need that extra push to make sure you're sharp every day. You can't take anything for granted, you can't take your position for granted."
Goodson, on the other hand, won a starting center back position in last summer's Gold Cup but has since found himself fighting to unseat Sporting Lisbon defender Oguchi Onyewu as the starter alongside captain Carlos Bocanegra, Edu's Rangers teammate.
As a starter or reserve, Goodson, 30, has embraced an increased leadership role with a U.S. team constantly filtering in new, young talent, despite his status as a late bloomer who didn't emerge as a regular for the squad until late in the 2010 World Cup cycle.
"It's an awesome thing," said Goodson, who serves as the captain of Danish side Brondby. "Just three, four years ago, I was just trying to break my way in here. It's nice to be able to be in a situation where you can help the other players a bit but also still be learning from the coaching staff, still learning from the guys that are playing."
While Goodson and Edu are the only Terrapins on the current roster, Maryland products such as Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi, Los Angeles Galaxy defenders Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza, and midfielder Robbie Rogers of English club Leeds United are a part of the national team pool.
"It's really a credit to Sasho," Edu said. "He's tried to really create as much of a professional atmosphere and professional environment for players to come in there and really succeed and go on to the next stage, the next level. He really has set the building blocks and has put the ball in motion for us."
Although Edu's roots are in Southern California, Goodson, who was born in Alexandria and attended W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, is a local product through and through. After growing up watching the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium, Goodson will take special pride Wednesday while playing in front of his hometown fans at the Redskins' current home and showing his mettle against a world-class opponent.
"Anytime you come home, it's obviously a unique, special situation," Goodson said. "It gets better every single time. Every time you come back, you don't know if it's going to be your last time. So you really try to enjoy it and make the most of the situation."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.