Whether you love him or hate him, one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorite players is Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya isn’t the flashiest of players, but he does all the little things that not only managers love, but that teams need. That’s why whenever the US has an important match, Bedoya is in the starting lineup if he’s healthy.
The problem fans have with Bedoya is that putting him on the field often means playing him on the wing, at the expense of one of the United States’ younger and flashier players.
With a massive World Cup qualifying match against Mexico in November, over the next two games Klinsmann will be looking to find his best starting XI to face the Americans’ biggest rivals. While Klinsmann is sure to do some experimenting, the experimenting will simply be plugging some players in along with the established starters to see how they gel. Despite the fact that the US’s friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand aren’t the biggest matches, it’s safe to say that Bedoya would have been on the field in one role or another.
That was Klinsmann’s original plan, until earlier this week when Bedoya had to withdraw from the squad with an injury. Now the US has been blessed with a golden opportunity, it’s an opportunity to learn if the younger players can take their chance and grab a place in the team.
In international soccer, chances mainly come about due to injuries. All managers have their favorite players for one reason or another due to their various skill sets. Whenever the team convenes those players will usually be on the field. Younger players rarely get their chance to break through until the established player is forced to miss a game because of an injury.
Take Jermaine Jones for example. The 34-year-old may have finally lost his place as a first choice central midfielder for Klinsmann. It’s not because of poor form, Jones has been fantastic in every game he’s played for the USMNT this year. He simply missed games because of an injury, which allowed Sacha Kljestan to step in and show the manager how dangerous he can be.
The US now has the same opportunity with Bedoya.
At this point, Kljestan and Michael Bradley are all but guaranteed to start in central midfield. 18-year-old Christian Pulisic has already made the left wing his own. That would have left Bedoya to play on the right.
With Graham Zusi not on the roster and Bedoya, as well as another Klinsmann favorite Gyasi Zardes, missing through injury, Klinsmann will have the luxury of trying someone else on the right side.
He has options as to who he can use. He can always move Pulisic to the right (he plays there for Borussia Dortmund) and play Fabian Johnson in his preferred left wing position, or he could simply play Johnson on the right wing. This would allow the United States’s two most dynamic attackers to actually play in the attack where they can be the most dangerous.
If Klinsmann prefers to leave Johnson at left back, he can give a well deserved first start to 20-year-old Paul Arriola. Arriola has made two appearances for the US so far, and has scored two goals.
Should Arriola get the start, he’d have the chance to impress Klinsmann and start making a case that, along with Pulisic, the future of the US attack is now. Arriola would be tasked with linking up with not only Pulisic but fellow US youngster Bobby Wood to show Klinsmann that if he trusts the kids, the US can have a dangerous and dynamic attack.
These opportunities don’t come along often. If everyone were healthy, Arriola would probably be relegated to a 20-minute cameo off the bench late in the match, the same situation he found himself in against Trinidad & Tobago. You don’t learn much from those cameos. You learn a lot more from seeing how the player fits when he’s on the field with Bradley, Altidore and the rest of the US starters.
With Bedoya unavailable, the US now has the chance to find answers to these questions. It’s now on the young players to take advantage of the opportunity.