USMNT: Alejandro Bedoya credits Ligue 1, Gold Cup experiences for nat'l team resurgence
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Alejandro Bedoya wouldn't mind opening the door for more Americans to play in France's top flight. His drive to succeed at Nantes is for a far more personal reason – but one that still has to do with his country.
“The first thing was to go to one of the top five leagues in the world, where I can probably find sufficient playing time to increase my chances of making the World Cup,” Bedoya told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the US national team's training session. “That was pretty much the focus for me.”
The attacking midfielder, called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for qualifiers against Jamaica here on Friday (6:30 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas) and next week in Panama, moved to newly promoted Nantes in August from Swedish side Helsingborgs IF.
“Of course, they're a newly-promoted team, but I looked into their history, everything like that, and it's a pretty big club in France,” Bedoya said. “I knew that obviously being promoted, they wanted to remain in Ligue 1, and after having talks with the director there, and the coaches, I knew what direction they were trying to go by bringing me in.
"Obviously, they can't ever guarantee or promise anything, but they let me know that they thought I could be a key figure for the club.”
The move followed Bedoya's return to the national team for the first time since 2011, when Bob Bradley was let go following a second-place finish in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“I think over the past couple of years, since Bob left and Jurgen took over, I was already on the outside looking in.” he said. “Nothing is cemented or anything, but I feel like to increase my chances of being part of this World Cup group I had to take the step.”
Bedoya also helped his cause with solid play in the US' run to this year's Gold Cup title, and scored his first international goal in a 6-0 friendly victory over Guatemala on July 5.
“I think that Jurgen made it clear that the Gold Cup, for any of the players, was very much an opportunity to showcase to him your abilities,” Bedoya said. “It could increase your chances – or, I guess, I guess it could hurt your chances, too. It could do both. But there's more to gain from a tournament like that.
"I guess you guys can say stocks have risen for certain players and lowered for others. I think for me, being in the position I am now, the Gold Cup definitely helped me.”
While ranked sixth in UEFA, Ligue 1 has not had a high degree of visibility in the United States – and few US internationals have played there. Defender Carlos Bocanegra played there from 2008-11, with Stade Rennais FC and AS Saint-Étienne, and forward Charlie Davies was with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard from 2009-12.
“I think there's this whole steroype that American players can't really cut it in Europe, that the French maybe have,” he said. “I think hopefully I'll be able to change that image, so to speak. I think the French league is a great league to go to.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.