One was coming off a record-setting season. The other was out of contract and on the cusp of a breakout move after seizing a huge opportunity in the Gold Cup. For Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Bedoya, the chance to challenge themselves at a higher level a year before the World Cup was too good to pass up.
“It was a long process, but there’s always a lot options,” said Altidore, who finished his second season with AZ Alkmaar having tallied 31 goals in all competitions, breaking the single-season record for an American in Europe that was set by Dempsey (23) last year.
“At the end of the day, you have to look at what is going to bring you further along. I felt this one was the best option.”
For Altidore, that meant a return to one of the most competitive leagues in the world to play against and train with top talent at Sunderland.
“One of the biggest reasons for the move for me was the chance to train against the best every day. My last club was a great club, and now I need to be challenged more. The chance to play with guys like Wes Brown and John O’Shea, who played at Manchester United for many years, is a huge opportunity. Going against them every day in training, and also having them around you and helping you get better is invaluable at this stage in my career. Overall, that was the step I needed to keep getting better and improving as a player.”
Heading into the summer with his contract at Helsingborg expiring, Bedoya knew he was staring at a big opportunity with the 2013 Gold Cup. He seized the day, putting in strong performance that culminated in an assist for Brek Shea on the championship-winning goal, and suddenly more doors were kicked open.
“Based on the performance in the Gold Cup I was able to get that move,” Bedoya reflected. “Throughout the tournament my agent and I were looking at different options, and I knew it was a great window of opportunity. Nantes came in the picture kind of late. I had to say no to a lot of teams that were interested, because I didn’t want to jump on the first thing. I wanted to make sure I had a good option and made the right decision. It wasn’t about chasing money; it came down to me feeling like the best place I can get playing time – which is important for me looking forwards to trying to go to Brazil – and also where I can be playing in one of the top leagues in the world to take the next step and challenge myself.”
Once the Gold Cup was complete, things moved fast for Bedoya. And he couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s crazy how in the football world things move so fast. Nantes took just a few days with negotiations and then I was off to France for a medical and checking out the place. Now my goal is to maintain confidence, and for me that means getting playing time. I think Ligue 1 is a bit underrated because it’s not as highly covered, especially in the United States. Nantes should be a good fit for me. I’m going to gain valuable experience, and that’s what I need if I want to be a player who can make a difference with the National Team.”