BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In 2008 Alejandro Bedoya took the advice of his friend Charlies Davies to begin his professional career in Sweden and five years later, that decision has helped him develop into a complete player.
Bedoya, 26, is currently the driving force in Helsingborg's offense and last week the New Jersey-born attacker scored the game winner in a 1-0 victory over Syrianska to move his club into first place in the Allsvenskan.
"I'm excited and pretty happy with the start of the season," Bedoya told YA. "Scoring goals is not a bad thing. There's more consistency and now I'm settled into the team."
Bedoya has always been know for his versatility in being able to play several attacking positions. So far in the early season for Helsingborg have taken advantage of this and have effectively used Bedoya in different roles.
In the start of the season, Helsingborg were using a 4-2-3-1 formation with Bedoya occupying the "number 10" role right behind the striker. While Bedoya believes that is his best position and formation, he was also effective when the club recently switched to a 4-4-2 where he was asked to play left midfield.
In the last game against Syrianska, Bedoya scored the winner playing as a pure forward in the 4-4-2
"I've been moving around a lot but I'm a versatile player," Bedoya said. "I feel most comfortable as 10 in a 4-2-3-1 playing right behind the striker. I'm able to roam around and find space in between the midfield and defense and behind the defense."
Bedoya's success at Helsingborg comes at the perfect time as his contract is set to expire on July 15 and a summer move could be on the horizon. When Bedoya left Boston College to sign with Orebro in 2009, his personal goal was to eventually move into the prestigious leagues in Europe. But in Sweden, he found the perfect place for him to develop and add elements to his game that were missing in college.
"In the Eredivisie, they're very technical," Bedoya said. "From an early age, all they teach you is technique and everyone plays a 4-3-3. The Swedish league is very tactical. You can honestly sit in a room for hours and watch video and study to go over formations. For me it was very different. As a player coming in here from college, where there's not too much tactics, it's where I grew the most as a player. As a league it's underrated but for a young player looking to develop, it's a good stepping stone."
In 2011, it appeared that Bedoya found the next step forward in his career when he signed with Rangers. Unfortunately, he was injured early in his first season and the club soon after found itself in a catastrophic financial downfall which relegated it to the lowest level of Scottish soccer.
Needing to get his career back on track, Bedoya returned to the familiar surroundings of the Swedish Allsvenskan last summer. At first he signed a brief six month deal with Helsingborg to finish out the 2012 season and play in the club's Europa League group stage games. Over the winter break, he signed another short contract to continue his progress.
For Bedoya, it was the perfect move to return to Sweden where he is now playing the best soccer of his career.
"After my time at Rangers, it was tough with a lot of injuries," Bedoya explained. "After the whole situation there I just wanted to make sure I found a club that I was comfortable with and where I got consistent playing time. I knew Sweden and I felt comfortable coming back here. Helsingborg has always been a good team since I've known them."
Bedoya added: "It was the same thing in January when I was deciding what to do. wasn't going to switch to a team just to switch to a new team. I could have had the chance to go to a relegation battling team in a big league but that wasn't my goal. I want to find a good situation where I can play and be comfortable. I had options with other clubs but after talking it out with Klinsmann in the January camp, it was clear the games were the most important thing I needed. Then I can worry about the next step this summer, maybe. It's been a good thing to come to Helsingborg."
So now with expiration of his contract coming in just a little more than two months, Bedoya will have to make another decision and he hopes it will be one where he can settle down for awhile.
The last two contracts have been short-term deals and Bedoya admits that the lack of security the contracts provide is on the back of his mind. On one hand, an injury could leave him without a club but on the other hand, Bedoya realizes that playing well in his brief contact now leaves him in more control of his decision.
It is likely that with Helsingborg playing well, Bedoya is likely to have options but it's clear that he has his goals set high as he enters his prime years as a player. He lists is dream scenario as the Bundesliga but also eyes mid-table teams in top European leagues.
"The plan from the beginning has always been for me to come here and use it as a stepping stone to get my career back on track and move abroad again," Bedoya said. "That's just has to do with my ambitions as a player. You always want to play in the bigger leagues and of course get back onto the national team scene. But I'm not ruling out staying at Helsingborg because it is a good team and a good group of players."
Bedoya's success this year is also welcome news to the Jurgen Klinsmann and the US national team that have been starved for midfield creativity for most of the past 18 months.
Under former head coach Bob Bradley, Bedoya began to emerge with the US national team where he was part of the 2011 Gold Cup team. When Klinsmann was hired, Bedoya was mired in the Rangers's downfall and fell out of the national team picture.
This past January, Bedoya made his first appearance with national team under Klinsmann and was a second half sub in a 0-0 draw against Canada. During the camp, he developed a relationship with Klinsmann at the time and it was Klinsmann who encouraged him to sign a new deal with Helsingborg.
Bedoya says he has received encouraging messages from Klinsmann this season after solid performances and it is a priority of his to be involved with the national team this summer in either the World Cup qualifiers or the Gold Cup.
"Klinsmann is very organized," Bedoya said. "He wants everything in a certain way with team meals, the way you work out in the gym, and out on the pitch. Even the meals for me were very different. The way you eat is very healthy and nutrient orientated. Everything is down to specifics. It was a good experience. He was able to talk to me and actually encourage me to stick around at Helsingborg at least through the summer and just get those games and get playing time. He's messaged me when I've scored goals. It's good to hear that from him and know that he's watching."
He concluded. "Hopefully I can keep continuing with this form and make the [World Cup qualifying] team or at least the Gold Cup. That's the goal and then maybe get a summer move."