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Perseverance Has Paid Off For Alejandro Bedoya

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder from New Jersey has had a turbulent career to this point. But as ASN's Brian Sciaretta learned, a rejuvenated Bedoya is full of ambition and confidence.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 04, 2013
12:07 PM

AS THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL TEAM prepares to face Costa Rica and archrival Mexico in its two biggest games of the year, the team will be riding a huge wave of momentum. Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad is riding a 12-game winning streak, winning the 2013 Gold Cup and cruising to first place in the Hexagonal.

During these 12 games, a total of 39 different players have appeared for the U.S team but it is tough to think of a player who has improved his standing more than Alejandro Bedoya. Prior to the start of the summer, the only appearance the New Jersey-born midfielder has made with the U.S team under Klinsmann’s tenure was a 26-minute cameo during the annual January camp friendly.

After a remarkable year, however, Bedoya looks poised to take an increased role on the team in what could be his first-ever appearances in World Cup qualifiers.

“I’m excited and it’s a challenge,” Bedoya told American Soccer Now. “They’re both very, very big games. Everybody knows if we win one more game, our chances are high that we’re through to the World Cup. It makes it extra special playing in Costa Rica, where the national team has had a hard time, and then Mexico, which is a huge rival. To be part of this process finally is exciting.”

Bedoya has clearly earned the opportunity.

At the start of January his contract with Helsingborg had expired. There was clear interest elsewhere but Bedoya elected to re-sign with the Swedish squad—a new six-month contract. His thinking: there would be better options in the summer, as opposed to the January transfer window, when many teams were simply plugging holes.

It was a decision Bedoya made after consulting with Klinsmann and his staff at the January camp, where management stressed to Bedoya the most important thing was to continue to earn minutes.

The move to stay at Helsingborg, albeit briefly, paid huge dividends. Bedoya enjoyed a very strong start to the Swedish Allsvenskan season, where he was one of the best midfielders in the league and helped guide Helsingborg to first place when his contract expired. When he was selected to the U.S. Gold Cup team, he was one of the team’s best players even though he played on the right wing, away from his preferred central attacking position. In the semifinals and finals of the Gold Cup he assisted on three of the final four U.S goals en route to helping the Americans win the regional tournament.

“I just played my game,” Bedoya said of his Gold Cup performance. “My style is what’s gotten me places. Under Klinsmann it is new type of setup. He’s a very positive guy. Players are willing to try things and are not afraid to make mistakes. I’m not the flashiest player. You’re not going to see me do step overs. I work hard and I feel that I’m tactically a good player."

"I understand the game and I try to keep it simple," he continued. "A lot of my work is done off the ball which maybe some people don’t see or appreciate. I move into space or even make a run which is going to open up space for another person. Those types of things are part of the game. I try to get myself in positions where I can be dangerous in the attack or help out defensively as well.”

Klinsmann agrees that Bedoya has made impressive strides this year, noting the maturity and the confidence he has demonstrated in recent months.

“Alejandro Bedoya made a huge jump over the last 7-8 months, just during my time now,” Klinsmann said. “He came pretty late into my picture. He was with [former U.S. coach] Bob already, and compared to where he was in the January camp to where he is now is really wonderful to see. He became a lot more confident. He became a lot more mature. He proved that during the Gold Cup and he proved that in Bosnia.”

The journey back to the national team has been a rocky road for Bedoya. He earned his first cap in 2010 under Bob Bradley and narrowly missed making the 2010 World Cup team after making the 33-player preliminary roster. In 2011, Bedoya was named to the Gold Cup team that lost in the finals to Mexico.

Following that tournament, Bradley was fired as head coach and replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann. Bedoya had been a standout in Sweden with Orebro, where he began his professional career, and made the move to Rangers in Scotland. The move did not work out as Bedoya suffered a string of injuries and Rangers' financial scandal muddied the picture for all involved.

It was the most difficult period of Bedoya’s career. By the end of the 2011-12 season, he had lost his standing with the national team and his club future was unclear after Rangers was relegated to the fourth tier of Scottish soccer. Bedoya had already proven himself in Sweden with Orebro but made the bold decision to return to the Swedish league as a way to make a fresh start.

“I had to have a level head throughout the process,” Bedoya recalled. “Once again, I was without a club. But sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. There is no disrespect to Sweden, since a lot of great players have come through there, but it was important I got my confidence back and got playing time. Rangers was a tough period with injuries. The Scottish league just wasn’t a good fit for me. Helsingborg allowed me to get my confidence back while playing a position I loved. I had a great time there.”

While the Gold Cup was in progress this summer, Bedoya was working behind to scenes to figure out his club situation. There was substantial interest from Heerenveen in Holland and Grasshoppers in Switzerland, as well as other Dutch and German clubs.

In the last week of the tournament, newly promoted Ligue 1 club Nantes entered the mix and events began to unfold very quickly. He ended up signing with the French club on a three-year deal. In the first few weeks of the season Bedoya has cemented himself as a starter on the club and earned rave reviews in his first start against Paris Saint-Germain. While Nantes lost 2-1 to the powerful club, Bedoya was voted by attending media as Nantes' best player.

The move so far has been ideal for Bedoya. He is an integral part of a team in a prestigious league and is expected to play his preferred position —central attacking midfielder.

"It was important that I went to a club where I can maintain that confidence by playing game in and game out," Bedoya said. "I’m still in one of the five best leagues in the world and Nantes has a great history.”

“The feeling that I’ve gotten is that, being realistic, maybe it is going to be a battle to stay up," he added. "Obviously the main goal is to stay up and move into the future. But we’ve shown the team we can be. If we just focus on our game and get rid of the small mistakes, I think we can do well.”

With the U.S. national team now in Costa Rica and looking to book a ticket to Brazil, most of the media attention is on stars like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. There is also a lot of excitement over newcomers John Brooks and Aron Johannsson.

But quietly, Bedoya has been rising through the ranks and could play a significant role as the team builds towards Brazil next summer.

What do you think of Bedoya's potential with the U.S. national team? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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