We have all heard by now that the Philadelphia Union is in deep discussions for the second straight summer to bring Alejandro Bedoya to MLS. Bedoya, unlike most Americans who played college soccer, has spent his entire career throughout Europe and would add to the long list of US Men’s National Team players returning from overseas to play in their home country. The deal is reportedly a $1 million transfer fee and a salary between $750K and $850K for the midfielder. This would without a doubt be the most expensive deal in the Union’s 7 year history.
So how exactly does Bedoya fit into Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin’s plan? Philadelphia is currently enjoying their most successful season since 2011 and looking to make the playoffs for the first time since that season. Their current system looks a lot like this.
The recent unexpected departure of fan favorite Vincent Nogueira has left the Union thinner than they would like in the center of midfield. Fans have also begun to ask whether or not this team can really compete without a true box to box midfielder. Striker and center back depth are other spots where this team should be looking to improve. So why spent all that money on Alejandro Bedoya? A guy who has mainly been used on the wing for the US National Team.
Let’s make one thing clear. Earnie Stewart has no intensions of using Bedoya in the wing position that most American fans are accustomed to seeing him in. Bedoya has openly expressed that he views himself as a central midfielder so it is hard to imagine that he would be open to moving to an MLS club to play on the wing. This is likely what their best eleven is going to look like once the deal is completed (including Mo Edu who will be returning from injury soon).
Rather than playing with a true attacking midfielder, having Bedoya and Barnetta play next to each other in front of Edu will allow two of their most intelligent players to play fluidly off of one another. Bedoya and Barnetta are both experienced internationals and should have no problem reading player movements. This will also give Ilsinho a lot more freedom to tuck inside at will to overload the midfield. Ilsinho has impressed so far in his first MLS season and has shown a strong tendency to be close to the ball and come inside to connect rather than stretching the field. Roland Alberg, the odd man out, could easily play in this role as well. When this movement occurs, Keegan Rosenberry will have the green light to give the team width high up the field. Rosenberry has one of the best engines in MLS and has shown how good he is in the middle and attacking thirds of the field. The rookie could potentially be the player who benefits most from this system. We swapped out Ken Tribbett for Josh Yaro in this system simply because of Yaro’s speed and versatility. With Maurice Edu in the lineup, Yaro can shift over to the right to cover for Rosenberry with Edu then sliding into the right center back spot for Yaro. Edu has played center back for most of his career in Philly and it is arguably his best position. This all ties back in to the intelligence of Bedoya and Barnetta who would be smart enough to provide defensive cover in midfield for when Edu does drop off.
This system is not easy to play but it could potentially put Philadelphia in a position to compete with the best in MLS, something they have never done before. It offers a lot of fluidity between player movements and melts positions at times. It would be an absolute nightmare to defend against if players buy in to the system. Maurice Edu has been open in the past that he does not want to play center back. Would he be disciplined enough to slide in and out of the backline so that his teammates can have more space to play? That is just one of several selfless ideas that the Union’s players would have to be committed to.
Philadelphia Union fans should be excited. Their club is about to add a US Men’s National Team player in the prime of his career. Bedoya’s high work rate should make him a perfect fit for a fan base that prides itself on hard work. The City of Brotherly Love has a chance to make a splash in this league for the first time in club history.