- Ravi Ubha, Tennis
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What is it with Boston College and Sweden?
Former Eagles star Charlie Davies made a name for himself at Hammarby, and Ghanaian Reuben Ayarna -- another BC alum -- is plying his trade at GAIS Gothenburg.
Add a third player to the list.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya established himself in his first season with overachieving Orebro (he joined the club in January 2009), earning a call-up to national team camp in January and making his debut against Honduras as a reward.
"After the midway point of the season, I picked up my game and showed I had what it took to succeed at that level," Bedoya said in a telephone interview. "The coach gave me the confidence and the chance to step up and do my job. I think I started playing fairly well towards the end. It was a good first season in terms of my development."
Orebro, which has never won the league title and only returned to the top flight in 2007, had its eye on Bedoya for a while. Club officials ventured to the U.S. to watch the 22-year-old at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in his junior year.
By that time he had already made waves in college. Bedoya sparkled for two seasons at New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson University (2005-06), where dad Adriano -- an FDU soccer Hall of Famer -- played under current Boston College head coach Ed Kelly, before making the move from the modest Northeast Conference. He distinguished himself with his high work rate, vision and eye for goal.
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Orebro's scouting director and manager liked what they saw and wanted Bedoya to join immediately. Bedoya, though, wanted to extend his college career, so initially he turned them down. He instead had a two-week trial at Orebro (population roughly 100,000 and situated in southern Sweden) in the summer of 2008.
The stint did little to dissuade Orebro, and the All-American midfielder signed in December 2008, bypassing other clubs in Sweden and Portugal, as well as Major League Soccer.
Former BC striker Davies (currently with French club Sochaux and recovering from a serious car accident in October) encouraged Bedoya to head to Sweden. The two never played together at Boston College, but Davies' experience in Sweden had been positive.
"I just felt that going to Europe, I would grow more as a player, becoming mentally stronger," Bedoya said. "People maybe 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 -- die-hard, hardcore fans."
As one would expect, Orebro manager Sixten Bostrom eased Bedoya into the lineup. He rarely started games during the first half of the season, coming on as a late substitute here and there. It was all part of getting used to the pace and style of the Allsvenskan, led historically by Malmo and IFK Gothenburg.
That changed after Bedoya scored two goals -- his first of the season -- against BK Hacken on July 27. Bedoya entered in the 78th minute with Orebro 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 subsequently started 11 of Orebro's final 14 games, with the team losing only once. Aided by Bedoya, Orebro finished a more-than-respectable sixth, five points off a Europa League spot. Hammarby, incidentally, found life without Davies hugely difficult, propping up the table and getting relegated thanks to a league-low 22 goals in 30 games.
"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 Hacken 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."
Bedoya's girlfriend, Devin, who now lives in New York, spent time with Bedoya in Orebro, which made the transition to Europe easier. He has made friends with a smattering of Americans living in the city and counts his best friends on the team as Bosnian Nordin Gerzic (once on trial at Bayern Munich) and Finnish international Roni Porokara.
Bedoya can't wait for the 2010 Swedish season to begin in March. Rather than simply solidifying his spot at Orebro, he wants to make a name for himself in the league. Then it's onwards and upwards.
A big Barcelona fan, Bedoya envisions himself switching to a second-tier league (the Netherlands or Portugal, for instance) in a few seasons and hopes to join the big boys sometime thereafter.
He has the requisite mental toughness, according to Kelly, an Irish-born former U.S. international at the helm of Boston College's program for more than 20 years. Kelly can't help but wonder how Davies and Bedoya would have fared against opposing defenses had they linked up together at BC.
"Alejandro's a winner," Kelly said in a telephone interview. "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. Charlie had that kind of quality. When it was on the line, Alejandro would come through."
He's come through nicely in Orebro thus far.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.
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