USA midfielder Alejandro Bedoya relishes chance to meet Colombia at last

The links between USA midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, his family and Colombia will make the meeting between the two countries on Friday night particularly meaningful.

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LONDON

Duty and heritage conflicted once before for the Bedoya family. Colombia traveled to Chester, Pa. four years ago for a friendly against the U.S. national team. Alejandro earned place in the matchday squad after working his way back into the frame after the World Cup. He stood poised to play for his country against the country of his parents, his grandparents and his family.

As Bedoya recalls now, the predicament fostered divided loyalties. His family backed him to the hilt, of course, but they did not necessarily show their support to his cause to everyone else. His grandfather, a former goalkeeper for Deportes Quindio in his native land, traveled to the game and wore a Colombia jersey.

Bedoya ultimately sat and watched the entire 1-1 draw unfold from the bench. He missed his chance to take the field against the national team he followed intently as a child and the country he visited every summer with his family.

Fate offered him a second opportunity when he retained his place on the roster for the friendly between the two sides at Craven Cottage on Friday. Bedoya — now a regular in the national team and a World Cup veteran after the excursion to Brazil this summer — plans to take it with both hands.

 "Colombia is in my blood," Bedoya said. "I have a lot of family that still lives there. I used to go there every summer, every year. It’s definitely a special feeling."

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Those connections played a part in bringing him to this point. Bedoya followed the exploits of the opposition carefully through his childhood in New Jersey and Florida and through his ascent to his current perch. He grew up watching an ultimately starcrossed golden generation of Colombian football, the group of talented players ushered out of the World Cup at the first hurdle at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. They served as his role models as he chased a career in the game and proceeded through the ranks.

The connection between Bedoya and the Colombian national side is different now. He admires the resurgence of the team over the past few years and notes the success of the side in Brazil this summer. He sees shades of his past heroes in this current crop of stars, but he steps onto the field as a peer with his own experiences for club and country to recommend him.

"I grew up watching them play," Bedoya said. "To play against this side of Colombia, it reminds me of 1994 when they had such a special team. This team is a really, strong and good team with a lot of good players. I’m definitely looking forward to it."

This encounter also offers the 28-year-old Nantes midfielder another chance to continue his emergence as an integral part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans over the next few years. He is a familiar presence now, the sort of player Klinsmann expects to assume more of a burden on and off the field as this team evolves.

Klinsmann’s stated shift to a more expansive deportment and a more precise emphasis in possession fits neatly with Bedoya’s measured and technical approach to the game. His dexterity and his proficiency on the ball allows Klinsmann to use him in the center of midfield or on the wing depending on the situation. The demands may change from game to game for both club and country, but they still provide him with the latitude to express himself on the field and state his claims for continued inclusion.

"I think the last few positions that I’ve played have given me a little bit more freedom, whether it is to sit in these spaces or find the ball a little more," Bedoya said. "I’m liking it. It’s nice to be in here now with a new group of guys and try new things for the future. We have a lot of tournaments coming up. We definitely want to finish 2014 on a good note against some good teams."

It is hard to imagine a more fitting way for Bedoya to conclude perhaps the best professional year of his life. Everything will come full circle for him once he steps onto the field with his mother and his brother expected to feature among the crowd. The moment will allow them to celebrate the ties that bind them and revel in the successes that allowed them to flourish in this special fashion at last.