Be­doya cop­ing with ‘ut­ter dis­ap­point­ment’

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

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 Amer­i­can-less 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 three and a half 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 it 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 top­sy­turvy 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 “pay-toplay” model to MLS-run 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 non-own goals scored Tues­day were pro­vided by play­ers who’ve 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.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS — RON SCHWANE

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.

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