Even with their 2016 successes, the Philadelphia Union always felt a piece or two away from being legitimate contenders. On Wednesday, the Union made a major move by acquiring a U.S. Men’s National Team veteran that the club believes is that piece that brings them to that next level.
Ligue 1 side FC Nantes announced on Wednesday that the Union acquired USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. The move sees the Union add a top-level midfield piece, one coming off of three successful campaigns in Ligue 1. Meanwhile, Bedoya instantly provides the Union with a USMNT regular, one that should make a legitimate impact both on and off the field.
In terms of his on the field play, Bedoya fills a need. Following the departure of Vincent Nogueira, the Union have been lacking a true central midfielder. The addition of Bedoya gives the Union a player that can smooth the transition from defense to attack, a player that can take the ball from the backline and feed it to fellow playmakers like Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho and Roland Alberg. The Union can use Bedoya as their engine, while giving the 29-year-old midfielder a chance to play in his preferred No. 8 position.
Still, the Union do have some pieces to arrange around him. Ilsinho will likely feature at his preferred right wing position, helping facilitate the attack around striker C.J. Sapong. Barnetta is free to move higher up the field, drifting in and around the attacking third to create. Alberg can either compete with Chris Pontius for a spot on the left wing or play alongside Bedoya in the center of midfield while looking to further his respectable tally of seven goals in 18 games. Add in the impending return of Maurice Edu, and the Union have a lot of legitimate pieces to build around. Warren Creavalle and Brian Carroll provide depth, finally giving the Union a wealth of options in an area of the field that isn’t goalkeeper.
The Union now have options. A 4-3-3 now makes sense with Sapong joined by Ilsinho and Pontius up top, with some combination of Bedoya, Alberg, Barnetta and Edu in behind them. When healthy, Edu makes sense as a natural No. 6, doing the dirty work behind two of the team’s more attacking midfield stars. If needed Bedoya and Alberg can both play on the wing, while Ilsinho could tuck inside should the Union look to clog the middle.
To be clear, Bedoya is not the type of player that will go out and score boatloads of goals. Statistically, he may never light up MLS and he almost certainly provide the flash in comparison to several other big-name signings. However, Bedoya will provide stability and a legitimate midfield presence, something that the Union sorely needed. With the correct pieces around him, Bedoya is a missing link, one that bridges gaps and plugs holes throughout a lineup.
However, the acquisition of Bedoya didn’t come cheap. The Union relinquished a small fortune of MLS assets in exchange for the USMNT star, giving up a combination of General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money and a draft pick to the Chicago Fire to seal thr move. The 29-year-old will also command a solid salary, and a transfer fee, making the move an expensive one for a team that has never really broken the bank like some of the more free-spending teams in MLS.
For the team that believes it can win now, it was a move that makes all too much sense for all involved. For the Fire, the deal provides a treasure chest of assets, ones that could be spent to further build around a young core of Matt Polster, Jonathan Campbell and Brandon Vincent. For the Union, it was a chance to take a leap into the league’s upper echelon while perhaps making a push towards the postseason for the first time since 2011.
How it all works out remains to be seen, but the Union made a big move on Wednesday in bringing in a star. It was a move for both the future and the here and now, as the Union have sent a message that they are ready to contend in MLS play.