Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: Alejandro Bedoya says homecoming will be ‘really special’

The last time Alejandro Bedoya played a soccer match in South Florida, he was a 17-year-old, baby-faced senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High, winning a state title at Lockhart Stadium, getting ready to head to Fairleigh Dickinson University on scholarship.

He had no idea his career path would wind through Boston College, Sweden, Scotland and France over the next decade.

The Weston native returns home Oct.14 as a 27-year-old midfielder on the U.S. national team, fresh off the Brazil World Cup and a game-winning goal against Czech Republic last month. The U.S. team is playing a friendly against Honduras at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, and Bedoya is pumped for his homecoming.

Among the other U.S. World Cup players expected for the 8p.m. match are Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore, who grew up in Boca Raton and, like Bedoya, will have many fans in the stands.

Most players will arrive Oct.11, and train at Lockhart for a few days, which will bring back memories for Bedoya.

“It’s going to be really special for me,” Bedoya said by phone from his apartment in Nantes, France, where he plays professionally. “My parents, friends and other family members will be able to come see me play, which hasn’t happened very often since I left home. I’ve played in Jacksonville and Tampa, but not in South Florida. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I played there.”

He started this season with a boost of confidence after playing all four World Cup games and scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 U.S. win over Czech Republic in Prague on Sept.3.

“I went up against the best in the world and showed that I really do belong at this level, and that has made a difference for me mentally,” Bedoya said of the World Cup experience.

Although the next World Cup in Russia is four years away, Bedoya and other U.S. players have plenty of motivation to play well in friendly matches. They are always auditioning for the next big tournament, which is the 2015 Gold Cup for the U.S. team. Then, there’s the 2016 Centennial Copa America, which is being played in the United States against South America’s top teams.

“Every time they call you in, it’s an important step you take toward making a name for yourself,” Bedoya said. “Four years ago at this time, I wasn’t even being considered. I wasn’t on the radar, wasn’t called in for anything. So, when you do get invited, you have to make an impact and show why they should keep you in mind.”

The U.S. team rarely plays in South Florida, so Bedoya is hoping for a big crowd.

“I hope fans show up in big numbers because it’s important for South Florida to show it supports the sport if it wants an MLS team,” Bedoya said. “I would love to see an MLS team in Miami, and if we draw a big crowd of fans supporting American soccer, that will help.’’

Tickets range from $28 $248. They are available through TicketMaster, by calling 1-800-745-3000, or at the stadium box office the day of the game.

▪ Match of the weekend: The European leagues take a two-week break after this weekend for international matches, but first there’s a huge match to be settled between Premier League leader Chelsea and rival Arsenal on Sunday (9a.m., NBCSN).

The last time these two teams met, on March22, Arsenal was humiliated 6-0. Chelsea is looking like the favorite again, with 23 goals over nine matches this season. Diego Costa is injured and might not be able to play. If he can’t, look for Didier Drogba to get the call, as he has scored 15 goals in 15 games against Arsenal.

▪ Rebuttal: FieldTurf, manufacturer of the turf that will be used in many 2015 Women’s World Cup stadiums in Canada, is fighting back as many of the world’s top players are threatening to sue World Cup organizers if matches aren’t moved to natural grass. The women say it is gender discrimination because men’s World Cup games are always played on grass.

FieldTurf vehemently defends its product.

A news release stated: “During the Men’s 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada, where the majority of the matches on artificial turf were played on FieldTurf, medical officer Dr. Rudy Gittens noted … “There were an average of 2.8 injuries per game through the first 48 games — 3.3 per game on natural grass and 2.4 on artificial turf. From these particular figures it would appear that artificial turf might be safer.

“This year, the 2014 Women’s U20 World Cup was held in Canada and there was not a single negative comment about artificial turf. Additionally, the following tournaments/matches have been played on turf, again without issue: FIFA U20 Men’s World Cup (2007), FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup (2008, 2014), Champions League Match (2006), MLS Cup Final (2009), CONCACAF Gold Cup (2009), World Cup Qualifiers (2005, 2009).”

▪ International competition: West Pines United, a youth soccer club in Pembroke Pines, is hosting a match between its Under-18 Girls team and the Guatemalan Women’s National Team. The game is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the West Pines Soccer Park at 196th Ave. and Pines Blvd.

Who’s leading

MLS: East — DC (51), Kansas City, New England (45). West — Seattle and L.A. (57), Salt Lake (49).

NASL: Minnesota (27), San Antonio (25), Edmonton and Carolina (19), New York (17).

English Premier League: Chelsea (16), Southampton (13), Manchester City (11), Aston Villa, Arsenal and Swansea City (10).

French Ligue 1: Marseille (19) Bordeaux (17), Lille (15), PSG, Metz and ASSE (14).

Serie A: Juventus and Roma (15), Udinese (12), Sampdoria (11), Inter, Milan, Verona (8).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (14), Monchengladbach (12), Bayer Leverkusen (11), Hannover, Mainz and Hoffenheim (10).

La Liga: Barcelona (16), Valencia and Atletico Madrid (14), Sevilla (13), Real Madrid and Celto Vigo (12).

On the tube

Sunday: Manchester United vs. Everton (7 a.m., NBCSN), Chelsea vs. Arsenal (9 a.m., NBCSN), Wolfsburg vs. Augsburg (9:30 a.m., GOL-TV), Mainz vs. Monchengladbach (11:30 a.m., GOL-TV), Juventus vs. Roma (noon, BeInSport USA), Toluca vs. Puebla (1 p.m., Univision), Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club (3 p.m., BeInSport USA), Guadalajara vs. Atlas (6 p.m., Univision).

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