Dave Zeitlin is a beat writer who covers Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. You can read all of his work here.
He was, after all, the team’s record signing last summer. He’s their highest-paid Designated Player. He’s a US national team regular and World Cup starter tasked with helping to change the franchise’s fortunes.
And he’s OK with all of that. In fact, as the Union remain winless on the season, he’s embracing the pressure of being the captain of a struggling club and remains steadfast in his belief that the Union will turn things around.
“You do have kind of a cloud and you have this weight on your shoulders — even more so maybe for me because I’m the DP,” Bedoya told MLSsoccer.com following Thursday’s training session. “I’m supposed to be a leader. So they’re gonna blame me for not being able to lead the team in the right direction. But once we get that first win, I think it will be a weight off of the shoulders of everybody.”
After an 0-4-2 start — and a 14-game winless streak dating back to last season, starting a month after Bedoya arrived — the Union hope that first win will come Saturday when they host the Montreal Impact (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE in US, TVAS in Canada) in the final game of what’s been a disappointing three-game homestand.
As for what the team can do better to turn the season around, Bedoya admits more sharpness in the final third is needed. And for himself, he hopes to see more of the ball and dictate tempo now that he’s been dropped back to his more comfortable role as the team’s No. 8 after being slotted in as the Union’s No. 10 attacking midfielder for their first five games.
“I want to be able to get on the ball more,” Bedoya said. “And that’s what playing this position is going to allow me to do. Playing behind the striker is difficult; there’s such a difference playing with your back to the goal. But as a midfielder, I’ve always been the type of player that’s never been afraid to get on the ball, look for the ball, and being in the right spaces. And for me, obviously I would like to add more stats. That’s really important for the fans because I’m a DP.”
Although he has played a role in a couple of the team’s goals this season, Bedoya has yet to register an official assist in 16 career games with the Union and has scored only one goal. Naturally, that’s not the kind of bang for their buck that fans want to see from their star, especially compared to the production of some other DPs around the league.
But Bedoya is quick to say that he doesn’t compare himself to anyone else, especially since he plays a different position and “offers different qualities” than some of the league’s other high-profile players. And he believes good things will come with his newfound partnership with Haris Medunjanin in Philly’s defensive midfield while Roland Alberg, who got his first start at the No. 10 slot last week, and others will pick up the offensive slack.
“We have great talent,” Bedoya said. “I’ve seen in training some of the plays that we’re able to pull off. And even in games, some of the sequences and good plays in the attack — there’s no doubt, we have a good, solid team. It’s just about getting results. And when you’re not getting results, it’s like the world’s coming down on you.”
Despite the team's slump, Bedoya insists that the energy level and mentality has been good in training — something he’s been monitoring and trying to help with as captain. And he thinks the players are eager to vindicate head coach Jim Curtin, who’s had to deal with questions about his job security in recent weeks.
“If anything, I feel bad for Jim Curtin because he’s on the hot seat, he’s under pressure,” Bedoya said. “I feel bad for him because he’s put the right game plan in for every game. Against New York City [last week], we turned them over I don’t know how many times in a row and we just weren’t able to execute with our attack.
“It’s just about continuing to work hard and we’ll turn this around.”