By Jeff Crandall
Just Days away from the close of an unusually quiet secondary transfer window in MLS, things heated up immensely. On August 1, multiple reports surfaced that star U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was in advanced talks to join Major League Soccer.
His destination: the Philadelphia Union.
After spending his entire professional career in the top flights of Sweden, Scotland and France, Bedoya returned Stateside on deadline day, becoming the newest and highest profile member of a Union side in the midst of an intriguing turnaround.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he told ussoccer.com upon his arrival to Washington, D.C. where he was meeting his new team ahead of the next day’s match against D.C. United. “I’ve been longing to come back and play Stateside in front of my family and friends. Being in Europe, it’s so far from my family. It’s my first time playing in MLS, so I’m really looking forward to the experiences.”
It’s not the first time Bedoya had entertained the idea of joining MLS. The Philadelphia Union came close to bringing him to MLS in January, but things fell apart when they were unable to move up in the league’s allocation ranking in order to earn his signature. Though the Union had put in a lot of leg work to bring him home again, two other clubs – Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew SC – also made their interest known as deadline day approached.
“This whole process happened very quickly,” said Bedoya. “It was confusing, complicated, annoying, but I guess that’s the way the MLS system works out.”
Bedoya in his first action after joining the Philadelphia Union; the team won 4-0 vs. the New England Revolution.
On Thursday, July 31, Bedoya received a call from his agent saying Major League Soccer was interested in bringing him home. He took the weekend to review the offer and by August 1 – two days before deadline day – things had accelerated quickly.
“Tuesday was when talks started coming down seriously between the teams and the league. There were three teams interested at the top of the list trying to make things happen with the allocation order and trades behind the scene.”
Though Philadelphia had seemed to do the most leg work to bring Bedoya home – head coach Jim Curtin and Technical Director Chris Albright met with him during a trip to Nantes to sign Fernando Aristiguieta – MLS rules made things more complicated for them to just sign him. The allocation order, a list by which MLS teams abide by in order to acquire high-profile players from abroad, gave top priority for the signing to Chicago Fire by virtue of their last-place finish the previous season.
“Calls with the coach of the Chicago Fire [Veljko Paunovic] personally, that went well,” Bedoya said. “The way everything works, I was sure I was going to Chicago, I was set up to go there. That got put on hold for whatever reasons. Tuesday night, I stayed up all night. At 12:30 a.m. I got a call again that said Columbus was interested. An hour later I got a call saying they were out, for whatever reasons it didn’t work out.”
After having his potential destination change multiple times in the span of a few hours, by 2:30 a.m. another call came.
“Philly was back on and maybe something could happen,” Bedoya explained. “I went to bed and woke up the next morning to news that Philly’s going to try to go ahead and do it.”
The Union had negotiated a trade with the Chicago Fire for the top allocation spot, opening the door for the New Jersey-born attacker to remain close to home.
“Philly was interested in me last year, so I really appreciated that,” he continued. “With their loyalty and having a lot of faith in me, it was the place I wanted to go to. You want to go to a club that really wants you and believes in you and thinks you’re going to make a difference.”