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Bedoya joining Philadelphia Union a win-win for USMNT fans

United States midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (11) during the Copa America Centenario group play soccer match between the United States and Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)
(Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

United States midfielder Ale Bedoya has left French club Nantes to sign with the MLS where he will become a member of the Philadelphia Union. Nantes were the first to announce that Bedoya would leave, with the Union making it official a few hours later.

Bedoya will sign a designated player contract with the Union that will reportedly pay him $1 million annually. MLS will pay Nantes a $1 million transfer fee.

Bedoya will go to the Philadelphia Union as they held the top spot in the league’s allocation order for returning MLS players and select U.S. internationals. A spot they acquired in a sign and trade with the Chicago Fire.

Bedoya had spent his entire career in Europe, playing in Sweden and Scotland before emerging as a key player for Nantes in Ligue 1 over the past three seasons.

Earlier this year, Bedoya had signed a contract extension with Nantes that would keep him with the club until the 2018-19 season. However, after this summer’s Copa America, Bedoya told ESPN Radio in Dallas that while he “prefers to stay in Europe” he acknowledged there were discussions about a move to MLS, partly motivated by his desire to raise his young son in the United States.

This is not welcome news to many USMNT fans who are seeing yet another player leave the competition of Europe for a cushy MLS job. Bedoya’s spot on the national team isn’t in any sort of jeopardy, as he’s still a favorite of Jurgen Klinsmann, but national team fans will certainly be worried about how the move will affect his play after seeing the form of players like Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud take sharp declines upon joining the MLS from Europe.

It’s understandable for fans to be worried it may not be necessary. Bedoya’s move to the MLS shouldn’t hurt his game, especially with the national team due to his role with the team. Unlike Bradley and Diskerud, Bedoya isn’t a player who’s relied on to score goals and create offense. In 52 career appearances with the national team, Bedoya has just two goals.

Bedoya has been used in an advanced role at times with his club teams, but it’s not his role with the national team. There certainly have been friendlies where Klinsmann has tried to push Bedoya further up the field, but ultimately when tournaments rol1 around Bedoya reverts to his usual role.

The way Bedoya plays with the national team is very similar to the way Sir Alex Ferguson used Ji Sung Park on his great Manchester United teams of the late oughts. That role is that of a work horse, someone who does all the little things that go un-appreciated by stat sheets and highlight reels.

It’s a role that requires constant running, whether playing on the wing or tucking inside to play a slightly more centrally, Bedoya’s role is to a little bit of everything. He’ll run tirelessly to wear out the opposing team. He’ll get back to defend not just for himself, but to make up for other players that either don’t defend as well, or to help out an over-matched fullback like he did with Matt Besler against Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals. Sometimes the role requires Bedoya to tuck inside and man-mark an opposing central midfielder out of the game.

Whatever the job calls for, like Park did for Ferguson, Bedoya has done so for Klinsmann. He isn’t the sexiest name on the team sheet, which will explain why many fans have called for him to be dropped in favor of players like Christian Pulisic or Darlington Nagbe, but his job is vital.

No matter what league Bedoya is playing in, his main job with the U.S. team will always be to run, work hard, and defend. Playing against lower competition in the MLS won’t hurt his ability to do that.

Bedoya will likely be with the U.S. through the 2018 World Cup provided that he keeps his level of play up. The good news for U.S. fans is that should Bedoya’s play drop, the U.S. is not without options as they have several young and exciting players waiting to break into the squad.

Sounds like a win-win for USMNT fans.

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