Alejandro Bedoya Believes That the U.S. Will Win
Thanks to steady play and a good run of form, Bedoya joins the U.S. training camp not only with a good chance at making the World Cup roster but also with a solid shot at seeing significant minutes in Brazil.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedFOUR YEARS AGO the U.S. national team lost to the Czech Republic in Connecticut in a tune-up match ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Following that game, then-head coach Bob Bradley was forced to trim his provisional roster to 23 players, and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was one of the players cut from the squad. As preparations begin for the 2014 tournament, Bedoya once again finds himself on the United States' 30-man roster, but this time around he is in a much different—and much better—place. Firmly established with the U.S. squad, the 27-year-old New Jersey native appears well positioned to make the final roster and could have an impact in Brazil. “It’s incredible how much four years has changed in things like that,” Bedoya told American Soccer Now from France. "That year I had just come off my first professional season. Obviously it was a big moment for me and I was very happy. But at that point, of course I was bummed and upset I didn’t make the final 23 but at the same time I thought it was a valuable learning experience. I really didn’t put my head down and I was happy to be in camp in the first place and be so close to the Word Cup.” The fresh-faced kid who was cut in 2010 is now an experienced professional—currently ranked 14th in the ASN 100—expected to provide leadership on a team that faces a daunting collection of opponents in Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. Bedoya's leadership skills are hard won, and can be attributed to a rollercoaster career filled with many challenges. Following the 2011 Gold Cup, Bedoya left his Swedish club, Orebro, and signed on with the Scottish power Glasgow Rangers. The move, which was applauded by many at the time, proved to be a major setback. Bedoya was injured soon after joining the club and struggled to earn minutes. And then the situation cratered: By the end of the season, the club was caught in a financial scandal that forced it to the bottom of the Scottish pyramid. At a crossroads, Bedoya resisted the urge to move to a bigger league and instead took a step back and returned to Sweden as a way to reset his career. He joined reigning champions Helsingborg on a short-term deal with an eye toward getting regular playing time. He played well in the Allsvenskan—and the Europa League—and began attracting interest from bigger European clubs as well as U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Football—it’s not for the mentally weak," Bedoya said. "You just have to stay objective and positive. To take a step back at Helsingborg, some players with their egos wouldn’t have [done] that. For me, I knew that if I took a step back, I’d find my form again.” “It’s been a lot of ups and downs these four years,” he added. “But I always kept my head up and I was always confident in my own abilities. I never took anything for granted. I’ve kind of reestablished my career back in good form and back at the top.” Bedoya believes his family, which has a long history in the sport, contributes to his resilience and confidence. His father, Adriano, played in Colombia for Bogota-based club, Millonarios. His grandfather, Fabio, played for Quindio. His younger brother, Santiago, was a standout at Northeastern University and recently scored for Mass Premier in a 4-1 loss to Western Massachusetts in the U.S. Open Cup. To Santiago, the family’s tight-knit nature combined with a love for soccer has been a driving force in Alejandro’s success. “I think one of the things that has definitely helped has been the supporting cast around him,” Santiago Bedoya said of his older brother. “We’re a pretty tight-knit family. He’s got a really good group of friends since middle school. So throughout that, everyone’s always been very supportive of him and always encouraging him and telling him to stick with it and to stay positive. He does a really good job of that on his own as well. He’s very independent and mentally strong. In our family, we always say hard work pays off and he’s proved that.” The hard work of resetting his career paid off at the 2013 Gold Cup, where Bedoya stood out as one of the best players on the U.S.' championship team. It was Bedoya's first competitive national team appearance under Klinsmann, and immediately following the tournament he signed with newly promoted Ligue 1 club Nantes in France. In France, the general expectation was that Nantes would be in a relegation fight during the season but a hot start and a strong finish saw the club finish in the middle of the table. His breakout performance came in an early-season contest against a powerful Paris St. Germain side. While Nantes lost, Bedoya stood out as one of the better players in the game and he felt then he “proved his name as an unknown American.” Bedoya, a consistent starter throughout the season for Nantes, became one of the team’s most dangerous offensive midfielders. He finished with six goals in all competitions but was always involved in the attack. He struggled a bit from January through March but ended the season playing well. He has also become one of the most popular players among the fans. Recently he earned headlines with him leading the team with the “I believe we will win” chant after every victory. Bedoya insists that that this all came about as part of an impromptu locker room celebration after he scored the winning goal. The fans took notice and created an online campaign for him to lead the supporters in the chat at one of their games. Despite a loss on Saturday in the team’s final game, Bedoya obliged after the final whistle as a way to thank them for the season. Next season, expectations will be raised for Bedoya as the club’s top forward Filip Djordjevic will be leaving to play for Lazio. In addition, the club was hit with an 16-month transfer ban from FIFA for a violation that occurred in 2012. “Everybody says that next year I should have a big leadership role amongst our team with our striker leaving," Bedoya said. "I hope to grow into that role, of course, it’s nice to have that role and feel important. But I feel like I always go out and just try to play my best and do everything I can to help my team win." “I feel like I’m playing my best soccer as a professional here at Nantes," he added. "It’s been a blessing and I’m very happy I had this opportunity.” Following the season finale for Nantes this Saturday against Bastia, Bedoya will shift focus to the U.S. team’s World Cup camp in Stanford. It has been less than a year since he reestablished himself on the national team but like his situation at Nantes, he will face the heightened expectations of both creating offensive opportunities and providing leadership. In Ligue 1, he helped Nantes compete well in a league full of elite talent. In Brazil, the U.S. has a similar challenge and the New Jersey-born Bedoya continues to adopt the slogan for the chant he is now identified with in that he believes his team will win. “Of course we’re optimistic,” Bedoya said of the U.S. “We believe in ourselves. I feel that as a national team, we’ve faced the top teams over the past few years and we were able to get results. It’s obviously a tough group, but it’s the World Cup. It was never going to be easy. The way we are as a team given our American mentality—I think when we play our game and are on our game, we have a chance against any team in the world.” “I feel a lot more confident in my place with the national team and hopefully I can take that into camp and make that plane trip to Brazil and make a difference in any way I can.” What are your thoughts on Alejandro Bedoya? Do you think he will make the 23-man roster for Brazil? Share your thoughts below. Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.
May 14, 2014
May 14, 2014