A graduate of the Carroll School of Management should be breathing down the neck of Cristiano Ronaldo in about two months. If it happens, it will not be at some Nike public relations stunt in Europe, but on a field in the heart of the Amazon rainforest at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Alejandro Bedoya, who played for the Boston College men’s soccer team in 2007 and 2008 after transferring in from Fairleigh Dickinson University, must be on the U.S. National Team’s plane to South America.
Decision time looms for U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who must pick 30 men to consider by May 12 and a final 23 before June 2 for his World Cup roster. With just a few spots available for wide midfielders, especially those who can play down the right, Bedoya’s placement on the squad is essential, but by no means a guarantee.
His spot will be threatened by a wild card 18-year-old phenom named Julian Green. The Bayern Munich youngster has played a few minutes for the club’s first team outside of its summer tour, but for the team’s reserve outfit in Germany’s third division, Green has scored 15 goals in 23 games, in addition to assisting on eight finishes.
Green has played for Germany’s youth national teams, though he filed a one-time switch with FIFA to pledge his international ties to the U.S., the country of his father and his birth. The chase for Green’s commitment to the U.S. was a controversial process, though, as rumors swirled that the Munich player signed on to play with the U.S. on the condition that he would be on the 23-man roster for Brazil. While both the player and the coach have denied those rumors, sacrificing the spot of an experienced player, in order to put in Green, would be a dangerous proposition for the team.
Arguably, the U.S.’ s Group G, which contains Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, will be the most difficult group to escape of the eight in the competition. It is the group of death. But the good news for the Americans is that a win and a draw from three games are all that is necessary to advance. Therefore, Klinsmann must plan accordingly to get those points.
A win must come against a talented and stout Ghana, who has defeated the U.S. in the previous two World Cups. While Ghana will be strong again with maestro Kevin Prince Boateng patrolling the Black Stars’ attack, it will be difficult for its style to matchup with that of the U.S. Klinsmann’s team must steal points from Ghana to have a chance to advance, as it leaves them needing a result against either Germany or Portugal.
A tactically and technically sound Germany boasts a solid midfield and excellent rearguard. With Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira likely to be out of the team due to injury, Bastian Schweinsteiger is capable as one of world’s top field generals. With Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, and the lethal Andre Schurrle at the disposal of manager Joachim Low, the squad should be able to overpower the Americans. But the U.S. will not have to face one of the tournament favorites until the final game.
The most winnable of the games against the European powers comes against the Portuguese. For what it’s worth, the Americans have a favorable history in the competition against the Iberians, having beat them in the group stage of the 2002 tournament. The U.S. made it to the quarterfinals that year before crashing out to the Germans.
Portugal has a strong core. Pepe and the masculine Bruno Alves have chemistry as the team’s center back pairing. They will play behind two well-functioning shuttlers in midfield, who are glued together by an experienced anchor in Miguel Veloso. The team’s 4-3-3 is headed by Nani and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo.
Klinsmann’s team matches up well in the midfield. Michael Bradley is in top form for club and country, and he drove at Mexico’s midfield like James Young through a pack of Huskies. Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have done well when they have a first-choice squad in front of them.
The game will be decided on the wings. Nani can be neutralized by an attacking defender like Fabian Johnson or DaMarcus Beasley, thus, it’s likely Ronaldo will be the man in charge of winning the game. An organized defense at the international level can hold the Portuguese back for a while, but the U.S. has no established pairing.
In fact, the U.S. does not have an out-and-out right back. Massachusetts native Geoff Cameron has not worked out there, while Michael Parkhurst has never been a part of Klinsmann’s plans. Brad Evans has been the best of the bunch, but that is not his natural position, which is a why a midfielder who can track back will be essential to the team’s success. With Ronaldo’s power and pace down the left posing a threat, Bedoya’s defensive abilities will come in handy.
“He’s got a fantastic work rate and they are lacking, in my humble opinion, somebody to protect the full backs,” said BC men’s soccer head coach Ed Kelly of his former player in the fall.
Bedoya’s role on the team will be just that. It may not be creating or scoring goals, which he has done playing as an advanced center midfielder from Ligue 1 Nantes this season, but it will be defensive. Graham Zusi is the player most similar to Bedoya, who is in the running for that spot, but the Sporting KC man does not possess the ability to make the lung-busting runs the ex-Eagle makes. Bedoya has proven that he can perform that role as well-he crippled the movement of Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka in the U.S.’s friendly against the European up-and-comers last month.
Green would not come close to matching up with Ronaldo, as he struggled to get back against Mexico, and his defensive lapse played a part in the Americans conceding an equalizer to El Tri. His skill and youth may assist the U.S. in giving the team pace off the bench against a side like Ghana, but Green would be a liability against the world’s best attacking winger if he were to be placed on that right side, especially without a solid back to have his rear.
Bedoya is a scrappy player who possesses the creative talent going forward and the will to chase a speedster down the flank. For Klinsmann’s first World Cup with the U. S. to be a success, a 5-foot-10 midfielder with a marketing concentration will be a necessity on the pitch.