Postcard from Europe: Bedoya enjoying the ride as World Cup nears

Six months ago, hardly any U.S. fan knew his name. Now, Alejandro Bedoya is in the discussions to make Bob
Bradley’s U.S. national-team camp just seven weeks ahead of the World Cup.

You’d figure a 22-year-old would feel the heat of
such bright lights. But Bedoya is staying cool and going about business with Örebro
SK of the Swedish top flight.

"Honestly, I really try not to think about it so
much," he told MLSsoccer.com over the phone on Monday. "The most
important thing is for me to worry about my club."

Being a part of Bradley's rotation this late in the game
could entail a trip to South Africa as one of the rare 23 final roster spots.
And the young playmaker is feeling it.

"I'm definitely hopeful," said Bedoya. "I've
worked hard to improve every aspect of my game. I got some tidbits to work on
back in [January] camp, and I've been trying to work on those areas. I think a
good sign is that Bob Bradley was here at my first two games of the season.
Hopefully, he came away with a good impression, enough to warrant another
look."

Bedoya figures the USMNT coach continues to monitor him via
DVDs. If he’s correct, Bradley has been watching both a player and club on the
rise. After being set straight by an early-season hiccup, Örebro are up to
third thanks to a budding win streak.

"We lost two straight home games [early], which was a
surprise to all of us," explained Bedoya, who has a game-winning goal and
a game-winning assist during the current victory run. "It was a blow to
us, but we've been good away from home, grabbed a couple of wins and then
topped it off with a third at home. Everyone's happy and confidence is
building, the mood is better in the squad now."

The Miami-area native says building confidence through
sports comes naturally to him. After all, the family tree virtually reads like
an all-star roster.

"Both my parents, through their whole lives, have been
very athletic people," said Bedoya. "My mom was a really good
athlete, a volleyball, basketball and tennis player. My dad was actually a
three-time, three-sport [regional] champion in soccer, basketball and track and
field. My grandfather also played professional soccer, so it's in me.”

This handed-down "coachability" has not gone
unnoticed at his day job. Örebro manager Sixten Boström knows Bedoya can still
improve because he has watched him do it since arriving at Behrn Arena from
Boston College last winter.

"He has to become more active in the physical part of
the game, but the most important part is the tactics and he's learned a lot in
the one-and-a-half years he's been here," said Boström. "This league
is a very tactical league. He's a clever boy and he's learned quickly."

The good pupil agrees. "I'm learning a lot about that,”
Bedoya said, “Defensive positioning, where to be in different formations and
stuff like that. I've grown a lot in that area."

He has also proven able to rev his engine higher to meet the
increased pace of play, in training and in matches. It's a trait that can only
help him when Bradley completes his invites to the final pre-Cup camp next month in Princeton, N.J.

"Of course, it's a professional league, so it's a jump
[in game speed] from college," said Bedoya. "And being in Europe, you
know, not being so comfortable and having to work hard every day for your spot
-- that adds to it. I think my development has been very positive. I see the
game a lot better since coming here."

Boström suggests that Bedoya has developed to a place where
he would be able to provide a World Cup spark for the U.S. this summer.

"I'm sure the [U.S.] coaches know the team better than
I do, so I'm sure they know who to pick," offers the ÖSK boss, careful not
to tell Bradley his business. “I can see him as a substitute who comes in and
makes a difference with all his energy. He can run a lot and he moves around a
lot, which makes it difficult [to defend]. He can make space for himself and
for others."

By all accounts, Bedoya impressed both the U.S. coaches and his
fellow players in January camp in Carson, Calif. That was good enough to earn
his first cap as a second-half against Honduras, and then an encore engagement against
the Netherlands here in Amsterdam last month.

Of course, by now, Bedoya has learned not to get ahead of
himself. He surely picked it up somewhere along the way and has maintained that
focus despite riding a comet.

"The last few months have gone really fast,” he
admitted, “from being in the January camp and then with the A-team against
Holland, playing in that atmosphere against one of the best teams in the world,
and now to a possible May camp call-up. I'm just going along for the ride. I'm
honored to be part of it."

Greg Seltzer's "Postcards from Europe" appear on MLSsoccer.com every Tuesday.


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