Player Spotlight: Bedoya takes 'bumpy' road to World Cup

The U.S. midfielder persisted through troubled times on the club level and a prolonged national team absence before booking his ticket to Brazil.
NEW YORK — Alejandro Bedoya recognizes the "up-and-down" nature of his career abroad. His ventures through Sweden, Scotland and France have seen good chapters and bad.

Two years ago, Bedoya found himself plagued by injuries while playing in Scotland for a Rangers team mired in financial peril. This time last summer, he had just one appearance under U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann despite a stable if unspectacular club situation in Sweden.

Those were the hard times. Now he's a Ligue 1 regular with 14 caps under Klinsmann, and is poised for plenty more after being named to the USA's 23-man World Cup roster earlier this month.

"I've had a bumpy career so far, but it's a credit to my hard work that I'm back in this position now," Bedoya said. "Confidence is the key in football — in any sport, for any athlete really. I've been able to get that back and I'm playing more free-spirited, and that helps me a lot."
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After jumping to the French top flight in August, Bedoya made 31 starts and scored five goals in his first campaign with Nantes. While facing the star-studded likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco, Bedoya further developed his game. The higher level of play improved his technical attributes, and he said the league's surprising physicality pushed him as well.

Evolving in that environment, Bedoya boosted the national team status he built up during the USA's run to the Gold Cup title last summer. Having started the Americans' 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Bedoya finds himself in firm contention for Klinsmann's first 11 in Brazil.

"Alejandro Bedoya made a huge step forward over the last two years, especially last year when he broke through in a very strong French league," Klinsmann said. "He's played some very good games against big names."

Although Bedoya has played across the midfield on the club level, he has been used almost exclusively as a wide midfielder for the USA. Noting he's not a player who will "stay on the touchline and paint my shoes white," Bedoya believes he has the mindset necessary to execute the Americans' new 4-4-2 diamond formation.

While the 4-2-3-1 calls for more width, the diamond asks the wingers to tuck inside — resulting in increased defensive work and some tougher decisions on the ball.

"He's a good winger because he's versatile," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "He possesses the ball. He can get at people one on one. He's clever enough to not really force things and keep the play moving when it's not there, which I think we need because you can't always be a really tricky winger who goes past someone 10 times out of 10."

Added captain Clint Dempsey: "He has a great engine on both sides of the ball. He's a really unselfish player. He gives everything he has for the team, and that's what matters the most to him. ... He's a player that's very difficult to deal with because he's nonstop the whole game."

Bedoya will look to further entrench his place Sunday, when the USA takes on Turkey in Harrison, New Jersey. Born in nearby Englewood and a product of the Clifton Stallions Soccer Club, Bedoya expects to have plenty of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends packing the stands at Red Bull Arena for the World Cup tune-up.

Following that hometown send-off, it's off to Florida and, finally, Brazil. After being one of the final cuts from Bob Bradley's 23-man squad in 2010, Bedoya carries all the more gratitude for his ticket to this World Cup. When he looks back on the peaks and valleys he has experienced in these past four years, the appreciation only grows.

"That was difficult to take in, but I feel like I've changed so much as a player and person since then," Bedoya said. "Back then in 2010, I was a newcomer to the team, a young guy so to speak, and I didn't even have that much experience or many caps. I was kind of just happy to be a part of it and glad that I had been able to come up that far.

"This time around has been a lot different. Four years changes a lot."