Something looked off midway through the first half of the Union’s Eastern Conference Final win over New York City FC Sunday night. Captain Alejandro Bedoya, the heartbeat of the franchise that brought him in as a Designated Player in 2016, appeared to have re-aggravated a muscular injury that kept him out of three of the previous four games.
Bedoya’s last start came in the 5-1 win over Orlando September 10 when he came off after scoring the Union’s fourth goal. Since then, he made a late sub appearance in the 4-0 win over Toronto at home on Decision Day and missed the FC Cincinnati game due to a setback.
Bedoya’s value on the field goes beyond measurements, but even from the opening whistle, his movements looked reserved. He wasn’t as explosive, wasn’t covering the same ground, but his experience and work rate were enough to be a presence and slow the talented NYCFC midfield. He deserved to be on the field, deserved to be the first person to touch the trophy. But as his team prepares for the biggest game in club history, a game that would not have been possible without his leadership, Bedoya will in all likelihood be forced to watch from the sidelines.
“It’s just an injury and it’s really tough. I’m sore right now but I tried to leave it all out there,” Bedoya said in the locker room during the post-game celebrations. “Probably around the 20-something minute that I really felt it again, so I just tried to make it to halftime. After that, I knew I wouldn’t be doing enough to help the team.”
Nothing was going to stop Bedoya from playing. The Union midfielder enjoyed his most productive season in Philadelphia. With 6 goals and 6 assists, he matched his totals for the last two seasons combined. Even after suffering his injury, when it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to continue much longer, engaging in quick conversations with coach Jim Curtin on the sidelines, or when his limp became more pronounced, he continued to gut and fight, still helping the team despite the impact. And when the time came to give way, Bedoya continued to think of his team first.
Even then, Bedoya never stopped playing the game, encouraging his teammates and rallying the fans. “Sitting on the sidelines, it sucks,” he said. “To have no control, you get real nervous, when we were one-zero down it was tough, but I immediately got up and tried to get the fans back into it, and you could really feel the fans having our backs and propelling us to stay in the game.”
After the game, Curtin elaborated on the plan for getting Bedoya on the field. “There were two ways to do it,” he said. “You can have your captain out there and your leader to start the game. We knew he wouldn’t be ninety minutes fit. The tricky part would have been if you bring him off the bench, say the 60th minute, and he goes thirty or he doesn’t feel right, and he, God forbid, re-injures himself. Now, all of a sudden, you burned two subs and two moments.”
Bedoya’s replacement, Jack McGlynn, adapted to his reserve role all season, and in a few spot starts, asserted his skill by keeping the ball and opening up defenses with his passing. Sunday night, McGlynn’s pass to Julian Carranza that set up Daniel Gazdag’s winner was an exceptional ball from a young player growing in confidence every game.
“We all know that he’s an incredible player,” Bedoya said about McGlynn. “I told him before the game started, just stay ready because I didn’t know how long I’d be able to go. He’s ready, he was good. He’s still a young player but he keeps getting better and better, and on the defensive side of things, he’s improving, and we all know about that left foot, his vision, just to pick out Julian for that one goal is great. I have a lot of faith in him. Great to see him step in and do his thing.”
When Bedoya arrived in August 2016, the Union finished 6th in the Eastern Conference with an 11-14-9 record and a -3 goal differential. Four years later, he raised the club’s first trophy, the 2020 Supporters’ Shield, and this season led the team to numerous league records, among them fewest goals against (26) and second-best-ever goal differential (+46). “When I got here,” he said, “there was a lot of things where we weren’t really good enough, and you see how much we’ve changed in terms of the types of players we’re bringing in now, our academy improving the mentality, to change the culture. Credit to Jim and his coaching staff and of course I have a part to play in it, but I’m just proud of the effort and the resilience that the guys showed today.”
Over the past several years, Bedoya has become more than just the face and the voice of the franchise. During the 2020 season, he and his teammates organized multiple demonstrations to support Black Lives Matter. This year, following the horrific tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, he passionately spoke out about the need for gun control, a topic he’s been vocal about as well in the past. In July, Bedoya was even invited to the White House after Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. During Philadelphia’s World Cup 2026 bid announcement, Bedoya was once again front and center, engaging with fans and promoting the game at the local level. For his contributions off the field, the league named Bedoya a finalist for the MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year, which should be announced in the coming days.
In late September, Bedoya signed a contract extension for another season, which ensures the team will continue to thrive under his leadership. For now though, his biggest contribution will be leading his team for their first-ever MLS Cup. Should the Union win, Bedoya would complete one of the more remarkable reversal of fortunes in Philadelphia sports history.
No word has officially been given on Bedoya’s status for the final.