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Veteran Alejandro Bedoya makes mark on youthful USA Gold Cup squad

Veteran Alejandro Bedoya makes mark on youthful USA Gold Cup squad
From ESPN - July 16, 2017

CLEVELAND -- As Alejandro Bedoya slowly walked toward the team bus, it was evident that his day's work had come at a physical cost. "I got whacked on that first assist, so my ankle is feeling it," he said.

But there was a payoff, too. Bedoya, operating as the U.S. team's box-to-box midfielder, set up goals for Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe, plays that proved critical in the Americans' 3-0 win over Nicaragua on Saturday night. The result enabled the U.S. to finish the first round of the Gold Cup atop Group B, edging out Panama, which defeated Martinique 3-0 earlier in the day, on the goals-scored tiebreaker.

"It was alright," Bedoya said in assessing his own play. "I tried to find spaces in that position, that No. 8 role. I enjoy it when I try to get free in between the lines and cause their back line trouble. I am always going to be the second runner to try to break them down, and I think I was able to do that at times. And I got two assists, so not bad."

Bedoya wo not get a chance to build on his performance in next week's quarterfinal, which will take place in his current home city of Philadelphia. He and his wife, Beatrice, are expecting their second child, so he's being released from the Gold Cup squad.

"As much as I would have loved to have stayed, I am welcoming my new love to this world," he said. "I am looking forward to that."

Bedoya is a player who has long divided opinion. He has always been a conscientious, two-way player, but some fans and pundits have made it clear they prefer a more dynamic attacking presence on the field. Competing against the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Fabian Johnson, it can be hard to argue.

And so far during Bruce Arena's second stint in charge, Bedoya has found minutes tough to come by. While he has appeared nine times since Arena took over, six of those have been as a substitute, and Saturday's match marked the first time he had played the full 90 minutes.

Bedoya has long taken such criticism in stride and remains as confident as ever in his play. Is he a starter when the full team gets together? At this stage, probably not. But his experience, defense and versatility still make him a valuable presence on the squad.

"I have been a national teamer under three different coaches. I must be doing something right," he said. "Everybody has got their cup of tea, and whatever. Whenever I step between those white lines, I always do my best for the team. I know I have got the attributes and the ability. My game speaks for itself. Some do not like it, some do."

Among those who do is Arena, who said those calling for Bedoya to be dropped are "pretty stupid." Teammate Dax McCarty showed his appreciation as well.

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