He’s already energized and enthralled the Philly fan base. Now all Alejandro Bedoya has to do is play well and help the Union win.
The first chance comes Saturday at New England, which traded Bedoya's friend, Charlie Davies, to Philly just last week. Fans are eager to see an Eagles ReUnion on the field as soon as possible, but while Davies is midseason fit and is expected to see some minutes on what was his home field as recently as last week, if and how much Bedoya plays is far from certain.
“On the field, I have no concerns with Alejandro,” said head coach Jim Curtin at a press conference Tuesday. “The pressure now is on the players, the staff, myself to get him acclimated. He just has to go out on the field and play. Because he is a special player.”
The pressure will be on Curtin. There is suddenly a surplus of attacking talent, where Bedoya and Davies join Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius, C.J. Sapong and Roland Alberg. Sebastien Le Toux was traded to Colorado amid the frenzy of acquiring the BC boys.
As the only experienced striker in the group, Sapong has first crack to keep his place up top, with rookie Fabian Herbers filling in as well. Davies debuted for the Union last weekend against his other former MLS club, D.C. United, in the 80th minute of a 2-2 tie. The Union parted with a lot of assets -- General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money, a first-round SuperDraft pick -- to bring him aboard, and he’ll be especially eager to play against his former teammates.
“In terms of Charlie, you talk about character,” Curtin said. “We share a lot of mutual friends, and everything you hear about him is he’s a very good guy, a high-character guy, a guy who’s bounced back from adversity. He’s a guy that’s mentally tough.”
The midfield logjam is relieved somewhat short-term by the sidelining of veteran Brian Carroll. He has started 20 of 21 games as the holding midfielder but suffered a torn plantar fascia against D.C. and has been hobbling around on crutches since then. The timetable for his return is three to six weeks.
Warren Creavalle replaced Carroll at RFK and is likely to keep that spot during his absence. Curtin has occasionally paired them together to buttress the middle and if he deploys Pontius and Bedoya in the wide positions, he still needs to sort out the center. As for Bedoya, well, he says he’s gung-ho for whatever.
“But throughout my career in Europe, and even with the national team, I’ve always been a versatile player,” said Bedoya. “So I’m comfortable playing wherever Jim feels that I need to play. And I’m here to help the team out in any way that I can.
“So whether it’s playing out wide, on the right or the left, or behind the striker, or No. 8 or whatever it is, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to go out on the field and do my best to help the team win.”
The midfield balance has been an issue since the club parted ways with midfielder Vincent Nogueira in mid-June. It is 2-5-2 and has been outscored 21-17 in those nine games. Adding more offensive firepower to a team that has been leaking a lot of goals seems counterintuitive, but there’s no question the captures of Pontius, Davies, and Bedoya have infused more talent into the roster and ratcheted up expectations as well.
Bedoya, 29, cited some personal reasons for his decision to join MLS at this point in his career rather than in the past. He’d been pursued by league teams the past two seasons. His parents are from Colombia and live in New Jersey, where he was born.
“Why not? Right? That’s a simple answer,” he said. “I’ve been in Europe almost nine years, I had a baby born who is 16 months old now, so it’s a different situation.
“So for people that want to say I’ve been taking the easy way or whatever they say, coming back to MLS… that’s a lot of B.S. I’ve done the hard stuff and I’ve been able to perform in Europe in a top club like Nantes in one of the best leagues. And I’m coming here for a bunch of different reasons and one of them now is another new challenge that’s in front of me: Being a part of this Philly team and taking them into the playoffs and making a run.”