Bedoya trying to come to terms with World Cup disappointment
CHESTER » The gravity of Tuesday night didn’t set in fully for Alejandro Bedoya until he reached Philadelphia International Airport Wednesday.
There was agony and anger, the gamut of emotions wrung out of Bedoya and his U.S. mates after a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago resulted in an unthinkable elimination from the 2018 World Cup, the first Americanless World Cup in a generation.
But not until Bedoya returned home to see the absence from next summer’s festivities in Russia framed in the most intimate of terms did the despair fully set in.
“My wife came to the airport with my two kids and my son ran up to me, and for me, family, that just took my mind off of everything for a little bit,” Bedoya said Thursday at Union training. “I had dreams of taking my son to the World Cup. He would’ve been 3½ years old by then and just to experience that with him...
“There was a lot of sadness, a lot of emotions after the game on Tuesday night, and that for me was kind of the most disheartening thing. I always dreamed of having my son experience that with me and my family, and I let him down, I feel like.”
Bedoya remained on the bench in the catastrophe in Couva, in which the U.S. trailed 2-0 after a first half Bedoya alternately labeled as embarrassing, complacent and lethargic. They clawed a goal back via wunderkind Christian Pulisic, but results across CONCACAF aligned against the U.S. — with Honduras twice recovering from deficits to beat Mexico, and Panama scoring in the 88th minute to top Costa Rica — relegating the Americans to fifth place in the Hexagonal and the outside looking in at a World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Bedoya said the team received periodic updates of other action in the region’s simultaneous kickoffs. As stoppage time elapsed on the waterlogged pitch, the Americans knew a loss wouldn’t get them through.
“It freaking sucks,” Bedoya said. “For me to be on the bench and not take part of this game in a door-die situation, it really sucked. There was a lot of emotions: Anger, disappointment, disgust. I was pissed I wasn’t part of it, obviously, with my competitiveness and being a passionate guy. …
“We let our country down, we let our teammates down, we let our fans down, we let our families down and ourselves down. It’s an utter disappointment.” “It’s brutal,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Everyone’s going to be critical of the players and they’re going to be critical of the coaches. But if you step back and look at the emotions that they went through on that night and in this qualifying, it’s challenging. You just feel for them. If you don’t, you don’t have much of a heart, to be honest, because they know they let the country down, they know they let the game down.”
Bedoya’s personal plight is a sobering counterpoint to the rage resounding in many corners of the topsy-turvy U.S. Soccer realm reckoning with this debacle. The coming months will likely entail a reimagination at every level, from youth development to the president of U.S. Soccer Sunil Gulati, up for re-election next year. A managerial change will be hastened, Bruce Arena almost certain not to see out his contract to next summer after failing in his mandate to guide the wreckage of the Jurgen Klinsmann era to qualification.
Every level of the pyramid — from the youth ranks’ ubiquitous “payto-play” model to MLSrun developmental academies to national-team talent identification to the very MLS clubs — will be under the microscope of increased scrutiny.
With five idle years to fill before the next hope of World Cup soccer, there’s plenty of time for it.
For the furor of the moment, Curtin joins the consensus in recognizing that Tuesday’s monstrosity was the final piece of a confounding campaign. Likewise, the reasons for this failure are more complex than any one factor can account for.
“You’ve seen every different take in the past day and various experts come out, and everyone has their reasoning behind it,” Curtin said. “You know, is it grassroots, not getting enough city kids involved in soccer, the urban player, the academies letting us down, the coaches in our country letting us down, the player pool not being good enough … an omen to the fact we haven’t qualified for the Olympics in two cycles — it’s a little bit of all those things.
“There’s no one answer. There’s no one person that’s right. It does prove we have to step back, evaluate things and get better for it.”
Just one of the many contradicting rationales is a focus on MLS, which some posit is failing the U.S. But the goal that kept America out, an 88th-minute wonder strike by Panama and Seattle Sounders forward Roman Torres, came from an MLS-based player. Six of the nine nonown goals scored Tuesday
“We let our country down, we let our teammates down, we let our fans down, we let our families down and ourselves down. It’s an utter disappointment.” — The Union’s Alejandro Bedoya, a national team member, on the U.S. failure to qualify for the World Cup
were provided by players who have plied their trade in MLS, including decisive strikes by the Honduras/ Houston Dynamo duo of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto.
Bedoya, who picked up his 65th cap in Friday’s win over Panama in Orlando, will be 35 by the 2022 edition in Qatar. A veteran of the 2014 World Cup squad, his odds of playing in another World Cup are long.
He hasn’t given much thought to the scope of ignominy his generation will own and he’s unsure what will come next. But he has an idea what the process of introspection will be like.
“There’s been a lot of noise, obviously, and a lot of hot takes out there, as there should be,” Bedoya said. “I think more pressure is what we need and it’s going to bring out the best of us in the future, not just for the players but for everyone involved in U.S. soccer from the grassroots level on down to the communities, the local coaches, local teams, developmental academies — everybody’s got to take a good hard, look in the mirror.”
United States and Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, here captaining the national team in a Gold Cup match with Nicaragua in July, is among the many players devastated by the U.S.’s failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup.