BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, March 10, 2011
With the opening of the 2011 Allsvenskan season fast approaching, Alejandro Bedoya is ready to lead Orebro who are expecting to contend to for the league title.
Bedoya, 23, is entering into this third season with Orebro and after finishing third last year, he feels that this year the club can compete for its first ever title in the highest level in Sweden.
"We have confidence in our ability," Bedoya told YA. "Last year we finished third. While we were happy with that, we definitely feel that we could have had a better season. The whole league has gotten stronger this season so it will be tougher competition and we have the bull's-eye on our back after doing well last year. I am thinking we should go for the top. I think it's realistic from our standpoint."
For Bedoya, he will be entering into the final year of his three year contract. After completing his NCAA career with Boston College in 2008, he signed his first professional contract with Orebro in 2009.
He knows it could be his final season with Orebro and he does have ambitions to take his career to a higher league. Still, Bedoya is not distracted because he knows how he plays on the field will dictate the future.
"I don't try to think so much about that," Bedoya said of his uncertain future at Orebro. "There has been a lot of talk about that, especially this preseason. With my club there are a few other guys who are starters that are in the same situation with their contracts. I feel that if I play well at the start of this season, some things could happen in the summer potentially. I try not to think about that because I feel that what I do on the field will dictate the future."
Bedoya recently came back from a week-long training stint with English Premier League club Birmingham City and he was appreciative of the experience. While there, he received positive feedback from the team's management.
"I got nothing but good positive comments from training with the team," Bedoya discussed. "I got some really good feedback from Alex McLeish and Paul Montgomery their chief scout. I am obviously going to take that with me."
Bedoya's time at Birmingham was at an unusual moment for the club as they were preparing for the league cup final against Arsenal. As a result, he did not get as much training with the first team or the reserve team as he would have at another time.
He played in one match against San Jose of the MLS and his team was on the wrong end of a 4-0 loss. Still, the experience was positive because he was still one of Birmingham's most experienced players in the game.
"It was a different week for them as they were preparing for the [League Cup] final," Bedoya recalled. "I was only with the first team once. I played a match with the reserves and it was different because it was a lot of the youth players. Normally the reserve team would be compiled of first team players that didn't play the weekend. It wasn't like that. I was playing with a lot of the youth guys that were 17 and 18 years old. They were really young. San Jose definitely took it to us. It was nice to get some minutes."
Bedoya left Birmingham with a greater understanding of both his abilities and the quality of play in one of the best leagues in the world. Bedoya was impressed with the quality of the league and the players but at the same point, knows he has the ability to play in an environment of that quality on a daily basis.
"Obviously it was a nice experience," Bedoya assessed. "It was a great opportunity for me. It's most people's dream to play in the EPL. To just be in that setting and environment was a good thing. It's a lot higher level there than it is here in terms of quality. You can tell from the tempo, the speed of play, and the physicality. At the same time I didn't feel out of place. I have confidence in my play."
Bedoya was also informed by Birmingham's staff that they will closely monitor his play at Orebro in the coming months and will have scouts in Sweden to watch him play. While, Bedoya holds both a US and Colombia passport, he does not have any access to an EU passport. This would make a move to England difficult but not impossible.
"Birmingham will still be following me," the New Jersey-born winger informed. "They told me they will be at games to watch me play. I know the rules are difficult without EU citizenship but I have seen Americans win on appeal."
Also on Bedoya's mind is the US national team where high profile friendly games against Argentina and Paraguay await. Following that, this summer the US will play in the Gold Cup and that could give Bedoya a chance to play in his first ever serious competition for the national team but he is aware of increased competition to get a coveted roster spot.
"You always want to be part of the national team especially in these big tournaments like the Gold Cup," Bedoya said of upcoming international games. "For me, I wouldn't say I am a newcomer anymore. I am part of [the team] but realistically I know that there is a lot of competition. There is great competition in the midfield where guys play for teams in the EPL and other good clubs."
"But I've been working hard," he added. "I feel good right now, I am in preseason but I am fit. I am hoping to get called up to these friendlies and the Gold Cup is obviously in the back of my mind to be a part of it."
Bedoya last year was named by US coach Bob Bradley to the 30 man preliminary World Cup roster but did not make the cut when the final roster was reduced to 23 players. Since the World Cup, however, Bedoya has taken an increased role with the team and he has been on the roster for each of the team's five games in the new cycle.
Bedoya has seen Bradley introduce many new players like Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, and Mix Diskerud into the fold who look to be contributors in the future. After seeing what the team was like before the last World Cup and also seeing the direction the team is headed, Bedoya won't yet say it's improved, but he is seeing significant growth in US soccer.
"I wouldn't automatically say [the team] is improved but I would say US soccer is growing," Bedoya concluded. "There is no doubt about it that it is developing. Is good that there is so much depth and there are many more players to choose from. The level is increasing. Our job as players is to make it as hard as possible for the coach to make decisions."
Bedoya and Orebro will open their 2011 Allsvenskan season on Monday, April 4 when they travel to take on IFK Gothenburg.