Eyes ’14 World Cup
Bedoya makes name abroad, on US team
When the United States meets Chile Saturday in Carson, Calif., the team’s most experienced player will be Alejandro Bedoya. With six caps.
A year ago, Bedoya — who played at Boston College in 2007-08 — was called into the US camp for the first time, an unheralded player who would progress to being named to the 30-man preliminary roster for the World Cup.
This time, the 23-year-old Bedoya is considered more than an emerging talent. He has become a strong presence on the field and a potentially significant transfer target after helping Orebro SK finish in third place in Sweden’s Allsvenskan. In fact, Bedoya has opted not to renew his contract with Orebro and is weighing offers from other clubs, according to his agent, Patrick McCabe.
“It’s kind of crazy,’’ Bedoya said. “I saw my name on the list and I was the most-capped guy. I never expected to be one of the most experienced guys at national team camp. But, obviously, a lot has changed and expectations are a little different.
“For me, being here last January was a huge motivating factor. Starting the year out with the national team, I was able to bring back what I learned from playing and the confidence I got to my club team.
“And that translated across the board. We were more confident and expected more out of each other and we finished in third place, the club’s best finish in a really long time. And everyone on our team was upset. It might sound greedy, but we felt we could have finished in the top two or even in first place.’’
Bedoya followed Charlie Davies’s example in pursuing a professional career in Sweden after playing at Boston College. Unlike Davies, who was heavily recruited by Major League Soccer, Bedoya said he never received an offer from the league.
“With the MLS, it never got to the point where it was tempting or I had a choice to stay,’’ Bedoya said. “I had my mind made up and, after the college season, I went over right away.
“I really don’t think it was a big deal. The MLS is still doing an all right job getting younger players to stay; the league is improving and that shows the young guys it is a good league. But it is not as established as the European leagues, and that’s where I dreamed of playing and what I watched on TV growing up.
“I’ll say it to anybody: I have no regrets. I benefited a lot from going over there, more so than I would have in the MLS. I improved as a player and I matured as a person. If I had been in the MLS, I maybe would not have worked as hard. You can get too comfortable.’’
After the Swedish season, Bedoya made a stop in Boston, visiting his brother, Santiago, and sister, Marcela, who both played soccer at Northeastern last season. Bedoya remains in contact with BC coach Ed Kelly and has also become closer to Davies, who has been recovering from an October 2009 auto accident that cost him a place on the World Cup roster and his starting role at FC Sochaux in France.
“I transferred to BC my sophomore year and it was the best move of my life,’’ Bedoya said. “I really loved the school and the coaching staff and athletic people gave me a big boost.
“I’ve become really good friends with Charlie; we consider each other best friends. After the accident, I was one of the guys who had his back and was supporting him.
“It was a tough thing to happen but he’s mentally as strong a person as you’ll find and I feel he’ll be back in full stride. He’s been on the bench for the first team and he’s playing for the reserves, so it’s just a matter of time.’’
Though few players on this US team are likely to be around during the Gold Cup this summer, this is an early step on the road toward preparing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“You have to be confident you’re going to be involved,’’ Bedoya said. “My goal is 2014, but that’s a long-term goal. The short-term is friendlies and the Gold Cup, I’d like to be a part of that. With that in mind, also continue to get better and keep learning and play well with my club so I can get called back to the national team.
“This is a long camp and it’s a chance for the coaches to get a good look at the new guys and I’m still one of those guys, I’m still pretty young, and I haven’t been in camp the whole time. Being a veteran, so to speak, I’ve been able to give them some advice. I’ve told them to play like you do at your club, that’s what got you here.’’
Bedoya has been performing as one of two attacking midfielders in a 4-3-3 alignment with Orebro. On the national team, Bedoya has played as an outside midfielder.
“I have the freedom to go wide or stay in the middle,’’ Bedoya said. “I also started three games at right back, and that is a position I played growing up. I consider myself a midfielder but right back is a fun position because you have a lot of time on the ball and can start attacks. The game has evolved so much, and outside backs are getting forward a lot, but you do have to work on defensive responsibilities.’’
Chile, which reached the second round of the World Cup in South Africa last year, will also field a young team Saturday.
“In general, Chile plays a great style of football, they have a lot of talent, and it will not be an easy game,’’ Bedoya said. “Some of the guys who will be playing for us will be getting their first caps.
“There could be some nerves, but soccer is soccer at the end of the day. We’ve all played before and it should be a good game, two young teams going at each other. It should be an interesting game and, hopefully, we’ll get the result.’’
Santiago Bedoya was selected by Vancouver in the third round of the MLS supplemental draft yesterday. The Revolution’s picks were defender/midfielder Hunter Christiansen (Tulsa) and midfielders Fernando Cabadas (Sacramento State) and Andrew Sousa (Providence College) of Fall River . . . The start time for the Revolution’s home opener — March 26 against DC United at Gillette Stadium — is 4:30 p.m., the team announced.
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.