Alejandro Bedoya's return to lineup is perfect timing for U.S.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The U.S. attack has muddled through some erratic performances during the group stage of the Gold Cup, but the Americans received a boost from winger Alejandro Bedoya in their 1-1 draw with Panama on Monday.
It was Bedoya's first action of any kind in over two months thanks to a nagging knee injury that caused him to miss the tail end of the club season with French side Nantes, the U.S. friendly wins over the Netherlands and Germany, and the first two games of the Gold Cup. Bedoya sought out doctors to map out the best course of action, which ended up being simple rest.
But Bedoya proved that waiting for the injury to heal was the right decision, as he provided a spark for the U.S. on both flanks vs. Panama.
"You see [Bedoya's] quality, you see his capability to keep the ball, to shield it, and also to make runs and surprise the opponent," said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Those attributes were on display in the 55th minute Monday, when Bedoya's sharp run and pass set the table for Michael Bradley's equalizer. But beyond Bedoya's contribution on that play, he was pleased just to be involved again, even if his 71 minutes of action came in steamy conditions at Sporting Park. The game-time temperature was 92 degrees, and the humidity made it feel over 100.
"I felt at times that I wasn't as sharp as I could be," he said. "But for me, being able to get out there and run around -- this heat is no joke. I was struggling towards the end there, got a couple of knocks, but for me the most important thing was to get match fit, and I felt like I did that in this weather."
Bedoya was also involved in a contentious decision in the first half when a through ball saw him get ahead of Panamanian defender Harold Cummings, only to be hauled down outside the box. To the U.S., a penalty was expected, and a red card wouldn't have been out of the question. As it turned out, referee Roberto Garcia waved play on. Afterward, Bedoya himself wasn't sure what to call it.
"That no-call, the red card, it was probably an orange card," he said. " It was clearly a foul, but he got his legs on my calf and I was feeling it."
He later added, "I was pretty pissed [about the no-call], and you go through the emotions and you could see it. But you go into halftime and you let it all go. You've got to be mentally sharp again and you have to move forward with it. You move on, and I spent a couple of minutes shouting at the ref, and then I was able to get inside and move on."
The U.S. has a few days off now to recover before its quarterfinal clash in Baltimore on Saturday (opponent TBD). Bedoya knows that he and his teammates will need to use the time well to prepare for the even tougher games that lie ahead.
"It's been the storyline the past couple of games," he said. "It hasn't been good enough, and we all know that. I think we have a couple of days rest now to recover mentally, physically, and go back to the drawing board. But we all need to look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we all need to give more."
Klinsmann will have to make some changes to the U.S. lineup, starting with the back line because John Brooks is suspended for the quarterfinal due to yellow card accumulation. Yet Klinsmann sounded content to give Bedoya more minutes based on Monday's performance.
"Overall, his game was very positive for the fact that he hadn't played for quite some time," said the U.S. coach. "So we keep now building. We give him a rest tomorrow, but we're going to build him for the next one."
With the knockout rounds about to commence, Bedoya's return is a case of near-perfect timing.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.