Alejandro Bedoya and CJ Sapong were called up to the US Men's National team for the team's international friendly against Portugal on November 14. For Bedoya, it was his sixth call-up of 2017 for the national team. But for Sapong, it was his first appearance with the USMNT since 2012.
The two head into camp for the US at a tumultuous time for US Soccer. The friendly against Portugal represents the first competition of any kind for the USMNT since its loss to Trinidad and Tobago, which denied the US a World Cup bid. The loss resulted in more young players filling out the roster for the international friendly, including young phenoms such as Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent.
"From the beginning, this is an opportunity for a lot of people," Bedoya said. "Even for older guys like myself to show that we can continue in the program and give something back. But also for the young guys and the new players to come in, get a feel for what it’s like to play for the national team, to represent your country and see what the setup is all about. To gain some confidence, and for everybody to see the talent that’s coming through the ranks."
Bedoya and Sapong will serve as the elder statesmen on this USMNT, especially Bedoya. Bedoya has the most international caps of any player on the roster for the USMNT. He's been a part of the national team for the better part of seven years, won two trophies, and played in the 2014 World Cup. His experience will be extremely valuable to the younger squad, and will help push the team forward.
"For me personally, I think, as one of the older, more experienced guys, I think I just try to talk to the younger players, show them the way around the national team and kind of guide them through the whole process," Bedoya said. "I just take it in stride and continue to do the things that I’ve always done that have kept me coming into these camps, and playing as a professional. But at the same time now, also, taking on kind of that leadership role, and extending it out to the young guys and making them feel comfortable, in a good transition, and keeping them confident."
As for Sapong, it may be his first international cap since 2012, but his experience comes from his time in MLS. In 2017, Sapong put forward a career year, setting a Union record for most goals in a single season with 16, shattered his fouls suffered record, and tied his career-high in assists. He fights through contact nearly every game, and is exactly the type of blue-collar player the younger members of the USMNT will want to learn from.
It also helps that Sapong is going through a lot of what the younger players on the roster are going through as well. He's trying to show he can stick with the USMNT, that he's good enough to be a consistent national team player. For Sapong, his goal for the camp is to just show what he's got and try to gain as much international experience as he can.
"This time around, I feel very confident in my form and my mentality," Sapong said. "So it’s good. Also, seeing familiar faces and being able to come in on the first day and feel comfortable. My philosophy has always been: just have an impact. For the national team to see that and give me an opportunity is definitely a blessing. It’s also even more motivation to work even harder and take my game to the next level."
Ultimately, for both Sapong and Bedoya, it doesn't matter the circumstances surrounding the USMNT. Both are equally excited to be a part of the national team, and are looking forward to the match against Portugal.
"I’m very excited to be part of that opportunity, and I know the guys are as well," Sapong said. "And like I said, it’s the response. I think we’re up to the challenge. You’ve got to enjoy the experience and understand that it is a privilege to be able to wear these colors."
"For me, whenever I get a chance to be called up, I always take it," Bedoya said. "It’s a privilege to play for the national team. It’s a great honor. It’s always a blessing."