Alejandro Bedoya at USMNT training in Nashville, July 2017

NASHVILLE – Another gloomy-skied day greeted the Yanks again in Nashville, where, on the Fourth of July, they still hit Lipscomb University’s field for another training session in service of their country. As the US’ first Gold Cup match, this Saturday vs. Panama (4:30 pm ET), draws nearer, the training sessions are starting to slow-burn hotter than the Tennessee summer sun. 

 “Players are practicing now as competition for positions,” said the Philadelphia Union’s Alejandro Bedoya after the morning’s session. “Now we’re getting into how we’re going to play, formations, the style in which we’re going to play that Bruce wants. Now the focus is totally on the Gold Cup and Panama.”

The 30-year-old midfielder should have a leg up on that kind of focus. This Gold Cup run marks his fourth; that includes the 2013 squad that won the tournament. That also means that when Bedoya offers praise of the current team’s composition, fans should listen and take heart, especially about the roster’s MLS-heavy composition.

“We have some guys like myself who have had great European experience abroad and have come back and joined the league, so you have that going on,” he said. “But you also have some new youth and new guys developing through the ranks like Kellyn Acosta, and guys who maybe didn’t have chances before, like Dax [McCarty], so it’s great to have these guys coming in here and making the most of the chances.”

Bedoya further name-checked Acosta and McCarty for their performances in last Saturday’s 2-1 US friendly vs. Ghana. But now, as a team veteran, he sees his job, partly, to shepherd the squad through the comparatively long tournament slog ahead. Unlike, say, World Cup Qualifying with its long stretch and plentiful breaks throughout, this one means a month of steady work, in which depth players should feel as ready to go as sure starters. 

“Now, as kind of a leader, an experienced guy, it’s being able to tell the young guys how to stay focused,” said Bedoya, of his locker-room role. “We’re going to probably use all players, so everybody’s gotta be ready to play, to step in when their time comes. It’s important that we’re always competing in training, because this is a group, I believe, [in which] most guys are going to get a chance to participate.