The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Bedoya has message for Congress donothings

- By Matthew DeGeorge mdegeorge@21st-centurymed­ @sportsdoct­ormd on Twitter

WASHINGTON >> After a month of tepid play, the Philadelph­ia Union needed to make a statement Sunday night at Audi Field.

Alejandro Bedoya had a statement of his own, one much more important than anything that could transpire over the 90 minutes.

Bedoya came through on both fronts in the third minute, bagging the opening goal in a national-television showdown with D.C, which would go down as a 5-1 win over 10-man United. More important, after he had celebrated the goal with teammates, Bedoya spotted a field mic and had a statement to shout to the nation: “Congress, do something now. End gun violence.”

“To see that again happen this morning, another incident in two days, it’s absurd,” Bedoya said afterward. “I’m not going to sit idly

and watch this stuff happen and not say something. Before I’m a soccer player, before I’m an athlete, I’m a human being first. This stuff affects me. I’ve got kids. I can’t be the only here. In this day in age, in our society, I’m dropping my kids off and I’m thinking of exit strategies, when I’m at the mall, when I’m at the movie theater, I’m at the festival down the street.

“Something’s got to be done. It’s gotten to the point that we’ve almost gotten numb to it.”

Marco Fabian scored twice, Kacper Przybylko added his 10th of the season and Fafa Picault scored late in a game where the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 41st minute when defender Junior Moreno got his marching orders.

The win is the Union’s fifth straight against D.C. United in the league. It returns the Union (12-7-6, 42 points) to the top of the Eastern Conference, and it makes 23 straight games without the Union losing consecutiv­ely. It’s also their fifth road win of the season, the most in the East.

That is mere background for Bedoya’s bold statement, one in keeping with the captain’s character. For him, the notion of “stick to sports” is completely bunk. He spent much of his youth in Weston, Fla., just 20 minutes and in the same sports league as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 students were killed by a gunman on Feb. 14, 2018. The Union captain wore an “MSD Strong” shirt under his jersey for the 2018 opener in memory of the victims. He knew people who knew victims in that shooting, including the friend of a player at the Union Academy. Part of his thinking is colored by his wife, Beatrice, whom he met in Sweden. She is Norwegian, a country that profoundly reshaped its laws after a domestic terror attack in 2011.

As a national teamer with 66 caps and a proud Colombian-American who is fluent in Spanish, Bedoya has never shied away from addressing issues of importance off the field, particular­ly those involving immigratio­n.

Shootings this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, were on his mind Sunday, tweeting from his account at 11:12 a.m., “Seeing more thoughts and prayers bullshit. Words without actions are just worthless. America, it seems, is becoming a dystopian society. Do something!!! Enough!!!”.

In a group chat with friends back home, what Bedoya calls a bipartisan delegation, one challenged Bedoya to use his visibility to push for the change he feels so strongly about.

“One of them said, Alejandro, use your fricking platform, then. You can maybe do something and have more strength than some of us have,” he said. “And I said, OK, you’re right. I’m going to use my platform.”

He got support from his coach postgame and from someone in the booth who knows what it’s like to be outspoken.

“I’m on Alejandro’s team on the Philadelph­ia Union and I’m on Alejandro’s team in support of his comments on gun control,” manager Jim Curtin said. “Again, 250 shootings this year. I’m on his side. It’s outrageous. Things need to change in this country for sure and I’ll support anyone who A) speaks their mind and B) is intelligen­t and informed on it every time.

“That’s what Alejandro is. He’s passionate and he cares. Again, it’s a real issue in our country. It needs to change. A lot of people will tell me now and Ale now to shut up and stick to sports and all the stupid lines that come up, but it’s crazy in our country right now and I think it needs to change as well.”

“I love that he is opinionate­d, that he is outspoken, that he stands up for what he believes in on and off the field, that he is a thinker,” said former U.S. national teamer Alexi Lalas, on the call for Fox Sports 1. “In this instance, I don’t look at it as political. I look at it as social in a moment where our country is collective­ly, regardless of political affiliatio­n, is sad for the loss of life. I think it was a legitimate kind of call that was bipartisan in nature and ultimately, human.”

All the other details of the game wash together. The Union flung 16 shots at D.C. in the first half, 25 for the game. Andrew Wooten did the hard work on the opener in his first start, blasted home by Bedoya from outside the box. The Union belatedly doubled the edge in first-half stoppage time after squanderin­g big chances. Junior Moreno was sent off in the 40th after hauling down Przybylko in the box with he and Fabian free on a 2-v-1 counter. The penalty was spotted immediatel­y, but referee Armando Villarreal went to the video to swap Moreno’s yellow for red.

Przybylko skied the penalty, but he eventually got the third after Warren Creavalle, in a rare start, played him in. And the Union got their second before halftime thanks to Fabian, roofing a Kai Wagner cutback cross. Picault scored in the 90th minute, set up by fellow sub Ilsinho. Jamiro Monteiro, returning after four games out, got the secondary assist, and it could’ve been worse if not for nine saves by Bill Hamid.

All those details are not what Sunday was about, and Bedoya knows that more than anyone.

“I said, I’ve got to take a stand,” Bedoya said. “I’m a human being before anything. I never stick to sports and I never have. Something’s got to change. We’re the only civilized nation that has this happen.”

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