Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being the most underappreciated man on the US roster – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey got the first two goals goals and most of the glory in the US's 4-0 romp past Costa Rica on Tuesday night. Michael Bradley got some deserved praise for his steady and controlled outing as a No. 6, and wingers Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes got mostly a hunk of flack for, um, one or two squandered chances.
In his Facebook Q&A today, Jurgen Klinsmann also spoke highly of the defense, saying that the big thing is that they've now played a few games together, so they've improved and they'll continue to improve. One might see that as reason to ask "Well, if that's your theory why haven't you tried that before in order to build chemistry earlier?", but I'm not here to pound that particular hobby horse today.
I'm here to sing the praises of the forgotten man of this US generation, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He doesn't catch the eye with his pace or fancy footwork; he doesn't have a booming shot; and he doesn't habitually slice open the defense with Valderrama-esque through-balls.
What is Bedoya's gift, then? Simple: He is smart. He recognizes things that are happening on the pitch before most players do, and is able to act accordingly while his opponents are taking a half-second to figure things out.
Look at how early he realizes this is a turnover:
Jermain Jones goal for USA vs Costa Rica | 2-0 pic.twitter.com/RtVuC7CyKh— SD Football Videos (@SDFootballVids) June 8, 2016
Before the ball was even lost he was moving into fifth gear, stretching the field and getting into a perfect spot for a lay-off from Clint "Kobe's goin' for 60!" Dempsey.
That lay-off never came, but that's OK. Part of the game is being in the right spot at the right time and forcing your opponent to react to you, and not vice versa. Bedoya does this pretty consistently with his off the ball movement, and for most of last night he had Costa Rica caught in his OODA Loop. He was turning recognition into decisions into action faster than they could keep up, which is why he was so often at the nexus of the best US moments.
One of my favorite Johan Cruyff quotes is this: "When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average … So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines wether you’re a good player or not."
That play above gives you a taste of what Bedoya does for his 87 minutes without the ball. It may not always be eye-catching, but it shouldn't go unnoticed.
Ok folks, thanks for the abuse!