New Jersey native Alejandro Bedoya is making a name for himself at ÖSK, Örebro.
by Chipp Reid
ÖREBRO, Sweden―Behrn Arena may not be a beach house in Wildwood or a mansion in Franklin Lakes, but it is the newest spot folks in New Jersey can point to as home of another budding star from the Garden State.
However, unlike the glam gang from “Jerseylicious” there is nothing fake about Alejandro Bedoya. The 22-year-old midfielder from Englewood, N.J., is a rising star in the Allsvenskan and is helping to turn Örebro SK into a contender for the Lennart Johansson trophy.
And, he’s doing it with a lot less drama than the cast of “Jersey Shore” or the “Real Housewives” on Dramamine.
“I have really developed at Örebro,” Bedoya said. “The club has helped me in every possible way. I feel I am better technically, better at handling the ball, I work more on defense and find my position on the pitch better.”
Bedoya joined Örebro after a standout college career at Boston College and Farleigh Dickinson University. He distinguished himself with his high work rate, vision and eye for goal. Örebro manager Sixten Boström liked what he saw and wanted Bedoya to join immediately. Bedoya, however, wanted to finish college, so initially he turned them down. He had a two-week trial at Örebro in the summer of 2008, which only increased the club’s interest.
He played 37 games for Boston College, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists, in his junior and senior seasons after playing his first two years at FDU. He earned first-team all-ACC selection both seasons and first-team All-America honors as a junior at BC before heading overseas.
The stint did little to dissuade ÖSK, and the All-American midfielder signed in December 2008, bypassing other clubs in Sweden and Portugal, as well as Major League Soccer. He spent most of 2009 playing as a substitute, but this year he won a starting job and hasn’t looked back.
Ned Kelly, Bedoya’s coach at Boston College, said the midfielder’s success doesn’t surprise him.
“Alejandro's a winner," Kelly said. “He has the desire and ability, and when big games came, he would do well. Sometimes it's the other way around. Players score against the easy teams, then they get a little nervous against the big teams. But not him. When it was on the line, Alejandro would come through."
The Jersey native turned heads on his arrival at Örebro, although it took the first half of the season for Bedoya to find his legs. He made his mark July 27, 2009 when ÖSK faced Häcken. Bedoya entered in the 78th minute with Örebro trailing 2-0 and earned his side a point with good finishes inside the box in the 83rd and 90th minutes, in the right place at the right time.
Bedoya started 11 of Örebro's final 14 games in 2009. The team lost only once. Aided by Bedoya, Örebro finished a more-than-respectable sixth, five points off a Europa League spot.
"Even before those two goals, I'd seen this kind of very welcoming mentality towards me," said Bedoya, who made 25 appearances in all. "Teammates were feeding me confidence, telling me I could do it. But [the BK Häcken game] was probably my breakthrough. Everybody started to be like, ‘This kid can play. Why not put him in? Why not start him?’ From that game on, my confidence went through the roof."
One of the bigger adjustments Bedoya made was to his own playing style. Boström uses a 4-3-3- system (four defender, three midfielders, three strikers), which Bedoya knew from his college days. Still, the Jersey midfielder said there were some big differences.
"In college, I was more like a free roller in our 4-3-3 system," says Bedoya. "I could go wide a little bit or find some space in the middle, whatever. Now, though I don't have to learn a whole new system, because [Orebro] also plays 4-3-3, but everything tactically: finding zones and reading plays on defense, and on offense, getting into the right spots.”
Bedoya admitted that adjusting to a slightly more rigid way of play took some time.
"I don't have that free role, so I had to learn a lot of the positioning and stuff,” he said. “That took a while to pick up, but once I established that, I could just work on my own game.”
He also said the work rate of Swedish football came as another surprise.
“There's no walking, and you have to be able to run with the ball, because as soon as you get it somebody is going to be on your butt,” Bedoya said. “It took a little bit of time to get used to but as I got some games, the coach would bring me on as a sub and I was able to work my way into the lineup.”
Bedoya bypassed Major League Soccer, where he was the No. 8 draft pick in 2009, to join Örebro because he thought the Allsvenskan offered a better chance at moving onto a bigger league.
"I just felt that going to Europe, I would grow more as a player, becoming mentally stronger," he said. "People might think I was going over there just for the money, but I think the atmosphere and whole scene gets you being recognized over there as a football player. You get 20,000 fans yelling, chanting your name―diehard, hardcore fans."
This year has been even better as Örebro continues to be the surprise team in the Allsvenskan. ÖSK is currently third and looks set to claim a spot in the Europa League. Örebro’s and Bedoya’s success earned the former Eagle star a spot on the U.S. Under-21 national team, as well as the full national team. He was one of the last players cut before the 2010 World Cup and started Aug. 10 in the friendly between the U.S. and Brazil.
As his career continues to flourish, he said he is happy every day with his decision to join Örebro.
“Over there, they bleed, sweat and sleep football," he said. "It's easier for me to worry about my game rather than my friends or family or this or that. It made me mentally a lot stronger and capable of focusing on playing a good game of soccer. The atmosphere and everything is incredible, just like you see it on television. It's nice to be noticed and just get that feeling.”