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Season review: Alejandro Bedoya’s year

Photo: Earl Gardner

Did the Philadelphia Union get the most out of Alejandro Bedoya this year? Did he provide what you’d expect a U.S. National team member to? Did he live up to expectations?

I’d venture to guess that a lot of Union supporters would answer “no” to the above questions. It was an up-and-down 2017 for the central midfielder, who had a very busy season traveling with both club and country. As we review his campaign, it’s important to keep that schedule in mind, along with some managerial decisions. The numbers aren’t flattering, but then again, is Bedoya ever flattering? Maybe sometimes.

The No. 10

The Union, which stumbled into the 2016 MLS playoffs, picked up where it left off to begin the season and continued to do anything but win. It took Jim Curtin’s squad eight matches to earn three points and, unsurprisingly, the losing streak called for some tactical tweaking. Most notable was moving Bedoya into the attacking midfielder role. Admittedly, there was no perfect replacement for Tranquillo Barnetta, who tallied six goals and seven assists in two seasons in Philadelphia. That wasn’t the question. The question was why put Bedoya there if he’s not comfortable.

Which, by the way, he confirmed after the season started:

“I’ve told you guys from the beginning where I feel more comfortable and that’s, if you want to say the No. 8 position, where I get the ball from the defenders and I’m able to turn and look forward and get passes in between the lines and help get forward,” Bedoya said. “That’s where I think I’m the strongest.

“Right now I’m playing in a different position because of different circumstances and for various reasons and I’m trying my best to help the team out. But you’re not going to turn me into somebody that I’m not, or what you want me to do as a No. 10 playmaker guy. I’ve never really been that type of guy in my career.”

Alrighty then.

Should it have even been surprising that he didn’t perform at the No. 10? How many players can you seamlessly move into another position? The Union weren’t losing solely because Bedoya was playing out of position, but it simply wasn’t helping anything.

“Bedoya’s time as the second striker/attacking mid was littered with errors,” said Christian Knittel, season ticket holder and co-host of the Bros Talking Soccer podcast. “He shows his quality at times when he keeps the ball moving from side to side. In that role, you need a more creative type of play to be more vertical with creating passes for wingers, strikers and overlapping wingers. He made far too many forced passes leading to turnovers.”

As Dave Knittel, co-host of the BTS podcast and founder of Fan Futsal, said, Bedoya never even looked content in the role.

“He played very poorly as the number 10, although he was unfairly being forced to play that position,” he said. “Just never seemed comfortable.”

Now, that’s also a valid point. It’s not totally fair to criticize Bedoya when he didn’t choose to play the position. That was Curtin’s call and, ultimately, we’ll never know what would have happened in those five matches had things been different.

Back to holding

Eventually, the Union started picking up results. Eventually, Roland Alberg was fit to play.

Eventually, we saw the best of Bedoya.

With Alberg in behind C.J. Sapong, the captain was able to move back into his comfort zone, typically in a holding role next to Haris Medunjanin. There, he served as the bridge that we’ve seen for years with the USMNT — connecting passes, opening up play, and tracking back on defense. A staple of Bedoya’s game is his fitness, put on full display from the No. 8.

These are the little things that earned him a PSP player of the week honor and make two goals and four assists seem less underwhelming. Bedoya has always been a “manager’s player” in that sense. He’s scrappy and does a lot of things that don’t show up on a television broadcast. He’s not a dynamic creator that will dish out 12 assists like Medunjanin. He’s just a flat-out solid soccer player.

“He played very well as the normal holding mid,” Dave Knittel said. “Connecting passes with defense and attack. He also did well tracking back and played positionally-sound defense. Not much more you could expect from him.”

Or is there?

The outlook

In very little time, Bedoya proved that he’s most valuable to the team in a holding role. But there are a lot of Union fans that don’t get caught up in tactics or proper positioning. Some supporters just know Bedoya is a big name and, more importantly, a designated player. Maybe that’s a pressure-packed label for a guy that hardly shows up on the score sheet. When you look at other designated players in MLS like Sebastian Giovinco, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and David Villa, there simply is no comparison.

Maybe expectations were too high to begin with.

“He is not getting nearly as many minutes as he once was and that’s a testament to his form since moving to MLS,” Christian Knittel said of Bedoya’s recent form on the national team. “It was expected that he would make the Union a more stable team with consistent playoff appearances. However, things have just gotten worse since his arrival at the club and expectations will not be reached.”

“He played as expected for a fringe national team player,” Knittel said. “Anyone that expected him to be more had unrealistic expectations.”

So, now the question becomes: Is this the best Bedoya the Union are going to get?

If it is, and if 2017 is a good representation of Bedoya as a player right now, it might not be good enough. It’s not that he was consistently poor, and it’s not that he wasn’t good — he was even a standout at times. It’s just that he wasn’t consistently a standout, and maybe he should have been. He’s at least capable of it.

“Bedoya has moments that can frustrate the living hell out of you and then moments that prove why he is a professional soccer player,” Christian Knittel said.

That about sums it up.

15 Comments

  1. He plays a non-sexy position, too. Look at the roster for Madrid. If they take Modric out of that lineup and replace him with a practice squad player, they will have serious trouble (ignore the results of the past week for the purposes of this discussion).
    .
    A holding midfielder by definition does not create a lot of highlights or get a ton of attention. But they are integral to a team’s success.
    .
    Well, as long as there is talent around them. If not, then it doesn’t matter how damn good they are…

    • 100% agree with Modric analogy. He is, without doubt, a top 5 player in terms of value on RM roster. Right up there with CR7, Marcello, Isco…

      Trouble with the U is that we don’t have ANY of those other types of players.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      don’t ya mean Kroos?

      • I always picture Modric as the defensive/holding midfielder. But if I have them mixed up, I apologize for the confusion. But I think the point still stands.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Yes. Was just having fun. The entire team is a bunch of jewels.
        .
        In my opinion without Kroos, Real Madrid just isn’t for the reasons you state.
        .

  2. A player like Ale is not sufficient but he is necessary. I’m glad the Union have him and hope they add pieces that will complement his effort and smarts.

    And, btw, the fact that his minutes went down for the USMNT was a problem for the USMNT. They sorely missed his grit vs Costa Rica and T&T and I’m sure Pulisic wishes Bedoya had been on the field to protect and help him rather than that soft Nagbe.

    Is he a play-making star? No. Is he a great player to have on your team? Absolutely.

  3. Bedoya and Haris behind a stud DP #10 could be deadly. And…there I am already convincing myself of next year’s Union breakthrough.

  4. When it comes to Bedoya, the most disappointing thing to me was that he wasn’t tried on the wing. That of course wasn’t his fault.

    • Agreed. Didn’t he play a fair amount of RW for the national team in the past? He’s quick enough to make those diagonal runs into the box and receive passes from a competent #10. He will also track back and give you solid defense.

      • I thought that as well. I wanted to see Jones at the 8 with Ale out right at the end of the season after the playoff hopes had gone

    • Goopy Snorkel says:

      Eh. He’s not your traditional winger who’s going to take people on and beat them with pace. And when he previously played on the wing for Nantes and the national team, there was the same criticism that he doesn’t score and he doesn’t play the final ball. What he does offer in that position is (more or less the same thing he offers in central midfield) the ability to find space and move the ball forward. So I’m not sure he’s really more valuable on the wing unless you have a better central midfielder forcing him out there.

      • When Curtin finally started to invert the middle towards the end, Bedoya made some very nice, intelligent runs through the middle. Enough so, that I just would have liked to see what he would have been able to do on the wing. Curtin has talked in the past about a pressing style, and I think Bedoya would do well in that role. Part of this is my want to see Jones on the field more too. That with a Fafa on the left, C.J. up top, Ilsino and then Haris, and that’s a more of a defensive pressing team. I think it would have created more turnovers. I think a Barnetta clone #10 makes that lineup competitive.

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