For the Philadelphia Union, there is a large hole in the lineup with Tranquillo Barnetta returning to Switzerland. Luckily there is a Designated Player ready to take the reigns.
When Alejandro Bedoya joined the Philadelphia Union most fans were happy because it signaled a new era for the team. They shelled out their money to get a “million dollar man” and it showed that the team was ready to compete financially with the rest of MLS. But the luster quickly wore off for Bedoya as Union fans began to turn due to lack of production.
The issue here is that for every Nicolas Lodeiro, a DP that joins the team midseason and sets the league on fire, there are 5-6 Bedoya’s who struggle to fit into a new system only to flourish in their second year in the league. The Philadelphia Union have experience with this concerning their last DP acquisition, Tranquillo Barnetta.
When Barnetta joined the Philadelphia Union from Schalke he looked out of sorts during his first half season. He made nine appearances tallying one goal and two assists leaving doubts on if he could get the job done in MLS. This is with Barnetta coming from the Bundesliga, a league which has a similar style of play to MLS.
Bedoya hails from Ligue 1 which is night and day when compared to MLS. The French league focuses on playing a more technical style to show the marks of, “the beautiful game”. You won’t see teams just hoofing the ball forward or any of the other hallmarks of MLS tactics.
If the change in leagues is combined with Bedoya not playing in one of his natural positions for the Philadelphia Union, it’s no surprise that he didn’t meet expectations this year. Bedoya is most comfortable at the number 10 spot or playing in the right midfielder positions. Those happened to be occupied by Barnetta and a combination of Fabian Herbers / Ilsinho Because of that, Bedoya was brought to play the number eight position but this was more of a temporary move than anything.
The Transition to the Number 10 Role:
When the Philadelphia Union traveled to Toronto and Tranquillo Barnetta missed the game, Bedoya had his best game in a Union jersey. He was elevated into the number 10 role with Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle paired behind him, giving Bedoya license to go forward. He had 55 touches (the most of any game this season) as he was focused on orchestrating the attack and running the press. It also didn’t hurt that Bedoya scored his first goal for the Union and boy was it a beauty.
Breaking down this goal, once Bedoya wins the ball he immediately lays the ball off to CJ Sapong. After that, he starts breaking on a vertical run into a dangerous area. Once he has gotten to the shoulder of the defense, Fabian Herbers makes a great pass to release him and the rest is pure class from Bedoya.
That play is a small glimpse into the things that Bedoya will be able to do in the number 10 role for the Philadelphia Union. Next year, Bedoya will have had a full offseason to acclimate to the team and he will perform better because of it. Bedoya won’t put up gaudy goal and assist numbers because that isn’t the type of player that he is.
What he will do is transition from defense to attack well while taking on more of a leadership role for the team. If Maurice Edu isn’t ready to begin the season, Bedoya will likely take the captain’s armband, again showing his importance to the team.
When Barnetta returns to his boyhood club, the Philadelphia Union will be well equipped to weather the loss of such an important player. Bedoya may have disappointed this year but in his natural role, he should flourish for the Union moving forward.