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Rising star Alejandro Bedoya takes Swedish path
by Ridge Mahoney, January 12th, 2010 7AM

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[U.S. SOCCER] In carving his own path through European soccer, Alejandro Bedoya is quite willing to follow in someone else's footsteps, a person he respects and admires. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney checks in with the 22-year-old Florida product who plays in Sweden and is currently trying to make an impression on Coach Bob Bradley at the U.S. training camp in South California.

"Charlie [Davies] had his mind made up," said Bedoya of his former Boston College teammate, who left college three years ago and passed up MLS to settle in Sweden with Hammarby. "He was set to go to Europe. He just knew he wanted to test the waters and he knew what it was like overseas when he went on trial with a couple of teams.

"The football over there is so different in terms of the fans and the stadiums and this and that. I'm hoping I can follow his path someday, leaving Sweden and going where there are bigger and better teams."

Davies and Bedoya got together again last week in Southern California, where the U.S. men's national team is beginning World Cup preparations with a three-week camp. Before he headed back to Delaware to continue the arduous rehabilitation from severe injuries suffered in a car accident nearly three months ago, Davies came by to visit his teammates and check in with a fellow former Eagle.

"When I'd go to Sweden, I'd go to see him and go out with him," says Bedoya, who played the 2009 Swedish league season with Orebro, a small city about a two-hour drive from Stockholm, where Davies lived before he left Hammarby for French club Sochaux last summer. "He was a good mentor for me over there. It's good to have guys you can look up to and ask for advice. They can keep you positive and keep you on track."

Like Davies, Bedoya chose Europe over MLS. He played 37 games for Boston College, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists, in his junior and senior seasons after playing his first two years at FDU. He earned first-team all-ACC selection both seasons and first-team All-America honors as a junior at BC before heading overseas.

And like Davies before him, he learned right away the learning in Europe is done on the field as well as off.

"The game over there -- in terms of game tempo, match tempo -- is soccer-smart," he says. "The pros know where to put themselves and where to give you the ball. It's not people just jumping up and being fast and athletic."

He trained with the U.S. U-23 team prior to the 2008 Olympic Games but wasn't selected by Coach Peter Nowak. A solid year in Europe brought him to Southern California as one of five Scandinavian players in Coach Bob Bradley's initial roster of 30.

Bedoya would like to think the possession-oriented style of play preached by former Orebro coach Sixten Bostrom can help his national-team aspirations, though a spot on the World Cup roster of 23 this summer is unlikely. During Bostrom's tenure, midfielder Bedoya describes Orebro playing in a 4-3-3 formation, with one holding midfielder and the other two designated as attackers.

"In college, I was more like a free roller in our 4-3-3 system," says Bedoya. "I could go wide a little bit or find some space in the middle, whatever. Now, though I don't have to learn a whole new system, because [Orebro] also play 4-3-3, but everything tactically: finding zones and reading plays on defense, and on offense, getting into the right spots.

"I don't have that free role, so I had to learn a lot of the positioning and stuff. That took a while to pick up, but once I established that, I could just work on my own game.

"There's no walking, and you have to be able to run with the ball, because as soon as you get it somebody is going to be on your butt. It took a little bit of time to get used to but as I got some games, the coach would bring me on as a sub and I was able to work my way into the lineup."

He scored both of his two goals during the season as a sub against Hacken, netting in the 83rd minute - just five minutes after entering the match -- and again in stoppage time.

He made 25 appearances as Orebro finished one place (sixth) and three points behind Hacken in the 16-team Allsvenskan.

Bostrom has departed as head coach and to replace him, Orebro hired former Swedish national team coach Lars Lagerback, whose nine years in charge ended last October when Sweden fell short of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

"Over there, they bleed, sweat and sleep football," he says. "It's easier for me to worry about my game rather than my friends or family or this or that. It made me mentally a lot stronger and capable of focusing on playing a good game of soccer.

"The atmosphere and everything is incredible, just like you see it on television. It's nice to be noticed and just get that feeling."

 



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