CHESTER, Pa. — Alejandro Bedoya has played in a handful of major games since joining the Philadelphia Union in 2016.
The captain’s desire to win has not changed, but one factor has ahead of Sunday’s playoff clash with the New York Red Bulls: the Union are hosting the game.
“I want to get the club the first playoff win, advance in the playoffs and get into the final,” Bedoya said on Wednesday. “That’s what I came here for, to make a difference and I hope I can do that, be a part of it.
“The crowd’s been great so far this year, and I’m sure with a home playoff game, our first one (since 2011)… There will be a lot of fans here. I’ve got a bunch of fans coming up from South Florida for the game for their support, but I think Philly fans are going to be out here.”
Bedoya missed the Decision Day loss to New York City FC because of a quad muscle injury, but he is aiming to return Sunday. He participated fully in training Wednesday.
“This was my first training session today,” Bedoya said. “It’s just getting that feeling back because being in that (training) room fricking sucks. It’s nice to be out here, touching a ball. My quad, it’s coming along. It’s not 100 percent obviously but I’ll be ready for Sunday, I hope.”
The recovery process has been a new experience for the American midfielder since he has never experienced a muscle injury in his career.
“It’s tough,” Bedoya said. “It is my first muscle injury in my career, so it’s the sensation of what am I supposed to feel? How am I supposed to feel? And the rehab work, it sucks being in there but it’s part of the game.
“You do a lot of things in there in the weight room that maybe I haven’t done all year, but it was also a chance for me to work on getting my body right in other injuries and try to recover. Being away from this, this is going on the third week without a game or anything like that, so that part of it sucks mentally. It’s mentally draining, but it’s nice to be back out here and get back to the match fitness I was on and hopefully my quad will be feeling 100 on Sunday.”
As he watched the loss to the Eastern Conference regular-season champion, Bedoya was worried about the team’s concession of early goals, which is something the team has concentrated on since their No. 3 seed was finalized.
“It’s been like the whole season, we can’t give up dumb early goals,” Bedoya said. “When we do that, it gives us an uphill battle and a big one to climb. Especially at home, if we could start like in the last 20-30 minutes of the second half, match their intensity, keep it at 0-0, bring us into the game and let our soccer take over, we’ll be better off. We can’t have Red Bull come in here and not match their intensity and even give up maybe a fluky goal here or there.”
The Union only earned six clean sheets in 2019 and have been down in both contests with Chris Armas’ side, including a two-goal deficit that they eventually made up on June 8 at Talen Energy Stadium.
“They were up 2-0 the last time they were here, so we don’t want to have that scenario happen again,” Bedoya said. “Watching that from the stands, we didn’t come out swinging, and that’s the first part of it.”
Philadelphia also has to finish better, a skill it lacked without leading scorer Kacper Przybylko in the lineup October 6. Even with the 15-goal scorer healthy, the Union have to improve their striking ability.
“The second is making the most of our chances. I think we have a lot of chances in the second half to at least come out with a draw, and we didn’t, and we have to convert those chances because you’re not going to get too many, especially in the playoffs,” Bedoya said.
Bedoya has been on the losing end of two playoff games and a U.S. Open Cup final, but all of them occurred on the road. With the home support backing the club, he believes it will be different than any big game he has played in for the club.
“They don’t have the Phillies anymore. The Eagles are playing the Cowboys, yeah I know that, but this is a playoff game. It’s different. I know the fans will be behind us,” Bedoya said. “That’ll help us. When the atmosphere’s electric, you see that and you feed off that energy. So I hope that will help give us the extra push to match Red Bulls’ intensity and get us over that hump.”