Commentary / Featured

Alejandro Bedoya, for club and country

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Friday night’s obliteration of Honduras by the USMNT will be remembered as Christian Pulisic’s coming-out party, and as a welcome-back celebration for Clint Dempsey and Bruce Arena. Rightfully so.

But one Union player played a somewhat unusual part in the match, too.

After a ludicrous foul — could easily have been a straight red in my book — forced Sebastian Lletget from the pitch after just 18 minutes, Union captain Alejandro Bedoya ran out to replace him.

“I didn’t even get to warm up,” Bedoya said with a characteristic deadpan after the match. “I was huffing and puffing after three runs. But that’s how it is.”

Not only was Bedoya — a 90-minute player for the Union — atypically coming off the bench in the match, preferred to the Bay Area native Lletget, he also played a different position than he does for the Union.

With Philadelphia, Bedoya plays as the central attacking midfielder. Holding a position on the field nearly as close to the opposing goal as the Union’s striker, Bedoya is tasked with getting on the ball and putting players in positions to score.

In three matches, reviews are mixed. The team’s discombobulated offense against Orlando, in particular, saw Bedoya fail to get on the ball with any regularity and contribute almost no forward passes in the attacking third. In contrast, against Toronto Bedoya got on the ball and used his athleticism and motor to drive at the opposing backline.

With the United States, though, Bedoya is out wide. Arena chose to use Bedoya as a wide midfielder, playing in front of Geoff Cameron on the right side. With the fullbacks under orders to stay back, Bedoya had responsibility to bomb down the flank, find open space, and link up with the other attackers.

Though the one assist he tallied is one of the easiest assists you’ll ever see — Michael Bradley does all his own work, including five or six touches, to create the goal — Bedoya played well off the bench. His positional confidence on the wing came through, as he was often in position to receive the ball in space or ready to prevent a counterattack. On a night when the central trio played out of their minds, all Bedoya had to do was keep the Honduras defense honest — which he did.

Questions remain whether he’ll be as productive as the Union’s no. 10. Certainly Friday night’s match also showed the difference between Bedoya’s interpretation of the no. 10 and Christian Pulisic’s. Where Pulisic is deft touches, audacious passing, and preternatural feel for the game, Bedoya must use work rate, positioning, and intelligent hustle to play the part.

That’s not to say that Bedoya can’t play the position. But it’s clear, even after just three games, that Bedoya doesn’t have the skills to do the things someone like Pulisic does. So he’ll need to try different ways of getting there.

Only time will tell whether the experiment can succeed.

Some other thoughts on the USMNT

  • I didn’t write this column about Pulisic because about a hundred other people have already written columns about Pulisic. But I’ll just state for the record that this kid is one hundred percent the real deal. Dempsey may have had the hat trick, but Pulisic was the best player on the pitch all night. Few, if any, American players have ever looked so comfortable and confident with the ball at their feet. His audacious move to beat a Honduran player along the touch-line is one of the best plays I’ve ever seen live, and his fiery reaction when it was wrongfully called out by the referee may have been even better. There are lots of directions his career could go, but he has a chance to be a generation-defining star for the United States. Something to cheer for.
  • With the blowout win they absolutely needed under their belts, the Americans face a much tougher task tonight against Panama. Jeremy had an excellent preview of that match yesterday. I’ll add that this game is a real challenge for the team’s depth — losing Brooks, Lletget, and Morris with the player pool already stretched due to injury will force some folks to step up. But unless the Panamanians can find a way to slow down Jozy Altidore, Dempsey, and Pulisic, this should be a win for the United States.

11 Comments

  1. pragmatist says:

    “Bedoya doesn’t have the skills to do the things someone like Pulisic does.”
    – Not many do.
    .
    Arena may be an arrogant jackass, but he does one thing better than many managers: he puts people in positions that play to their strengths, including Bedoya. For the U, I’m starting to think the idea of Bedoya out right and Ilsinho at the 10 is what this team needs, as it plays to the strengths of both.
    .
    Let’s hope this run of games helps Bedoya bring some of the success back home.

    • I’ll agree that Ilsinho needs to be out there but I don’t really care where they all line up. I think the problem is that we had Sapong, Pontius, Bedoya, and Herbers all out there, and they are all similar players in terms of style and hustle. Something different is needed to balance that out. I think that Ilsinho and Simpson are the cure for that. Hopefully.

      • pragmatist says:

        I agree with that, too. But you have seen the difference with the USMNT when Pulisic moved inside from the wing. I think there can be a similar (albeit on a smaller scale) positive change to the U if Bedoya moves outside. His strengths are accentuated outside. His weaknesses are exposed inside.

    • Consider where to compensate for Ilson Jr’s defensive shortcomings – Haris is slow to get back and Jones likes to go forward in possession, while Rosenberry can cover better. Let Ilson pinch in & make his runs centrally while Ale drifts right, but keep them where they are or risk a weak spot in the spine.

    • I have been saying since preseason that Ilson needs to be our #10. He’s the one with the flair and the vision. He can dribble at people, cut a through-ball, or crack a distance shot. That’s the move when he’s fully healthy. Move Ale to the right wing.

  2. Crazy, it’s almost like Bedoya ISN’T A 10. How much longer must we pummel this dead ungulate?

    • Good enough to play the position in France, but not in the US? Come on…

      • The talent ahead, behind, and flanking him in those games is obviously the difference maker. Also, I’m not sure how often he was deployed there (considering he played centrally as well as both on the right & left for Nantes). He’s a RW/RM at heart and Arena knows that.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Until Curtin gets it (see: never stop pummeling)

  3. Again, it keeps looking to me like the 10 in Curtin’s scheme is not a play maker but a further back striker. Almost like what you might see in a 4-4-1-1. He’s not directing traffic or pulling strings. He’s making runs. I don’t know enough about what he looked like int he center for Nantes.

    I don’t think it makes sense to blame Bedoya for disappearing in matches. He’s working. This isn’t basketball where a single player can put a team on his back. He’s already getting goods at the patented Vinny Nogs WTF hand gestures (I’ve seen them every match so far). These guys need to get on the same page. You can tell they’re not all working together 100% (even from the screw ups on set pieces). Hopefully it works out in time and sooner rather than later.

  4. Bedoya is not, and never will be a scorer. He will always be a marginally adequate passer. But, give credit to Arena for putting him in his most comfortable position, Right side mid, were he covers the right full more than worrying about attacking up the right side, thus giving cover for Pulisic, allowing him to get up high and roam a little more freely. The big liability tonight is the Jones/ Bradley tandem. One of them is OK. Two together is poison.

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