Postcard from Europe: Can Bedoya top his 2010?
AMSTERDAM – As exciting as his 2010 was, Örebro SK work horse Alejandro Bedoya is off to a good start in topping it before the 2011 Swedish Allsvenskan season has even begun.
And make no mistake: Last year was definitely one the 23-year-old midfield engine will never forget.
Bedoya kicked it off with his first US national team cap in January, made some unofficial midseason XI's after a standout first half of the season for Örebro, flirted with a fast World Cup trip by making Bob Bradley's provisional squad and finally, helped his club stay steady down the stretch to clinch a third-place finish and the 2011-12 Europa League invite that comes with it.
As packed a calendar as that was, Bedoya is off to a busier start in 2011. After ending January's annual extended California camp with 83 USMNT minutes against Chile, the ÖSK ace opened preseason prep for the upcoming Allsvenskan campaign.
[inline_node:330160]In fact, Bedoya has been so busy this preseason that he will likely never get to appear in Europa League play for Örebro, the club that plucked him out of Boston College barely two years ago.
The Miami-raised midfielder runs out of contract at season's end and has made it known that, despite enjoying his time in Sweden, he is not interested in an extension. Having attracted winks from the likes of Scottish giants Rangers, Bedoya will likely leave Örebro for a bigger challenge this summer.
Late last month, he was allowed to leave Sweden for a five-day visit to Premier League outfit Birmingham City. Though everyone refrained from calling it a trial, Bedoya worked out with the Brums and played in a friendly against the San Jose Earthquakes.
By Monday, the tabloids were insisting Blues manager Alex McLeish had designs on acquiring the youngster for next season. Either way it ends, the player has stayed true to form by working hard to improve and enjoying everything that comes his way.
"Birmingham went real well," Bedoya told MLSsoccer from Sweden. "It was nice to be able to train in that environment and get a feel for what it is like."
So is he now in line to move to St. Andrews this summer? It's too early to tell, but those breathless UK reports of McLeish's intent don't seem too far off.
"I got nothing but good and positive comments when meeting with both Alex McLeish and with Paul Montgomery, the head scout," reported Bedoya. "I was invited back, but obviously I am under contract with my team. They will be following me once my season gets started, so it is always nice to know an EPL club is interested. Obviously, the EPL is a league many dream to play in."
Now back at Örebro training for their April 4 opener at IFK Göteborg, Bedoya has full focus on the upcoming season. There is some fresh blood in attack and he believes this year's squad has the potential to beat the accomplishments of last season.
"The new faces we have, I think, will help us out a lot," he stated. "Last season, we could maybe say we were a team without much depth. However, this season there is no excuse. The club has done a good job of bringing in new players – guys that can go straight into the starting lineup or be ready to jump in from the bench and perform well."
One thing upon which Örebro can certainly improve over last season is the start. Last year, Sixten Boström's boys lost three of their first five games, including two of the first three at home. The new attackers have been given every preseason chance to make the lineup, a speedy integration which Bedoya feels can have a fine effect whether they can break into it now or not.
[inline_node:321316]"As more of these players get more experience and we all start playing more together, we will be a tough team to beat," he reasoned. "The team looks solid as of now.
"Of course, one can say we have a very strong squad on paper, but with one more month left in preseason, the final pieces of the squad are yet to be finalized – we are working hard to get off to a great start to season."
Last March, Bedoya went public with a stated team goal of finishing top three. In part due to his league-dominating distance-covered-per-game average, Örebro accomplished exactly that. Perhaps the fact that the American has raised his expectations should unnerve Allsvenskan opponents.
"This year we have pretty much the same starting lineup, and feel a lot more comfortable and confident in our abilities," stated Bedoya. "Of course, we will have a target on our back and teams will now know more our playing style and will go out to beat us more, but I think we have such a team that we can go for a goal of winning the league."
Surely, such a pronouncement will stir imaginations in Örebro, where the 103-year-old club has never done better in the Swedish honor division than a pair of runners-up finishes in the early 1990s. They've also never won the Svenska Cupen, meaning the trophy case is sorely lacking in shiny metals.
Bedoya very well may not be around to see a trophy hoisted at Behrn Arena, but the local faithful should know that this notion hasn't slowed his drive to make it happen.
"I think the supporters are eager and anxious to win a championship," declared Bedoya. "We've got the team to do it. We obviously want to bring back the gold for our supporters."
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