Union

MLS Cup notebook: Bedoya a doubt as Union prepare for title match

Photo: Peter Andrews

They say it never rains in Southern California, and the day before the 2022 MLS Cup was no exception.

Philadelphia Union trained in perfect conditions on the pitch at Banc of California Stadium on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, where tomorrow they will seek to become MLS champions for the first time in club history.

“We’re probably the underdog,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, but that’s “a position we’re comfortable with.”

Here’s what we saw from matchday -1 in California.

Bedoya unlikely to start, to be a game-time decision

Club captain Alejandro Bedoya lasted only 45 minutes in the Eastern Conference Final, as he’s dealing with a nagging hip flexor injury. The 35-year-old’s availability is a huge question mark heading into MLS Cup.

In his prematch press conference, Union manager Jim Curtin said that it would be “difficult” for Bedoya to start the match.

“He’s doing everything he can to be a part of the game,” said Curtin. “You never know when you’ll get another opportunity like this.”

Curtin said he and Bedoya would confer before the final training session to determine the captain’s availability.

“I’m going to do everything I can to be back,” said Bedoya, speaking with media before training.

If Bedoya is absent, Jack McGlynn is the most likely replacement. “If we decide to go with him from the start, full confidence that he can do the job,” said Curtin.

But he also said that there would be a different tactical plan depending on what personnel would be available. Curtin brought up the possibility of starting Matt Real opposite Leon Flach as another option.

LAFC present a stern test

The Union’s opponent, Los Angeles Football Club, are deserved representatives from the Western Conference — and not just because of their attacking talent.

“The thing I’m most impressed with their group is how well they counterpress,” said Curtin. “If you’re not careful with every pass, they can pick you off.”

Of course, the most memorable game between the two sides was a 3-3 draw here in LA in 2020 — the last match before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the MLS season.

“[That game] was us kind of finding ourselves as a club, and that made us believe that we could beat anybody,” reflected Curtin.

“That game kind of galvanized us.”

LAFC boast one of the best home environments in MLS, and the day spent in Banc of California Stadium only reemphasized that this is one of the league’s most spectacular venues.

Glesnes returns to Banc of California Stadium

That pre-pandemic game was a coming-out party for two Union stars signed that winter, Jose Martinez and Jakob Glesnes.

Glesnes, of course, scored an unreal screamer from 35 yards out in that game, putting him on the map for the MLS audience.

“It was definitely a good start for me,” said Glesnes prior to training. “It’s a goal that will be with me for the rest of my career.”

This won’t be Glesnes’s first cup final, as he was on the wrong side of a cup in Norway back in 2018.

“We as soccer players, this is what we are working for every day, to play finals and big games.  Now we have it in front of us tomorrow, so we have to enjoy it.”

Paxten Aaronson on the move?

Success for the Union also means that their players will continue to be in demand, and it looks like Paxten Aaronson may be first on the list this offseason.

MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert reported on Friday that the Union have a deal to sell the younger Aaronson to Eintracht Frankfurt for a $4 million transfer fee, plus add-ons and a percentage of a future transfer.

The deal has not been confirmed by the Union.

Aaronson, 19, has four goals and no assists in 37 appearances for the Union across the last two seasons. With Daniel Gazdag ahead of him, there have been limited opportunities for the young American, who has just seven starts and 1,006 minutes played. But he has impressed in other scenes, including winning the Golden Ball at the Concacaf U-20 Championship.

Bedoya named Humanitarian of the Year

The Union continued to clean up MLS’s year-end awards, with captain Alejandro Bedoya named MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year on Friday morning.

Bedoya won the award for his activism against gun violence in America. Earlier this season, he and his teammates wore “End Gun Violence” t-shirts before a match against New England, following the devastating murder of 21 teachers and children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Bedoya is also a member of Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control and against gun violence in the United States, and attended an event celebrating the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act at the White House in July.

“I don’t do it to be recognized with an award,” said Bedoya before Friday’s training session. “I do things because I believe I have a moral obligation based on my values and upbringing, where I have to sometimes speak out and say what I believe is the right thing to do.”

Bedoya’s award caps an end-of-season honors list that also includes the Goalkeeper of the Year (Andre Blake), Defender of the Year (Jakob Glesnes), Coach of the Year (Jim Curtin), and four spots on the MLS Best XI (Blake, Glesnes, Kai Wagner, and Daniel Gazdag).

But the Union know that the honor that matters most of all — MLS champions — is still to be won.

The 2022 MLS Cup kicks off from Banc of California Stadium at 4 p.m. Eastern on Saturday afternoon, televised on Fox, Univision, and TUDN. Pregame coverage starts on TV at 3:30 p.m.

9 Comments

  1. I’d start Quinn S and bring McGlyn on at halftime if Bedoya can’t go.

  2. Gruncle Bob says:

    If true the Paxten deal is enormous for the U. I hope it’s what Paxten wants – at the very least it’s a huge increase in wages.
    .
    $4 mil + sell-on means another $1 mil in GAM + $3 mil in cash. GAM can be used to strengthen the entire roster.

  3. PaulContinuum22 says:

    Bedoya HAS. TO. PLAY. You have all winter to rest.If only for a half, he MUST be out there.

    • Edu tried to come back early to play an open cup final and then never played again. I don’t think we want that to happen to Bedoya.

    • Have you every pulled a hip flexor?
      .
      The muscle lifts your upper leg upwards.
      .
      You can walk normally without it, but you cannot sprint. Cannot, as in physically unable to do so.

      • I have… it would be absolutely shocking to me to see him play at all. Having said this, I’ve seen miracles happen.

  4. Murphthesurf says:

    We love you captain ! Bring home the Cup you Boys in Blue ! DOOP!!!

  5. One small correction, the pre-COVID game was 2020, not 2019. 2019 was the only one of (soon to be) 5 meetings between the two teams that was in Chester.

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