Alejandro Bedoya is missing his grandfather's 88th birthday—with good reason.
Bedoya, a 2005 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas, will not join his family in Colombia for the celebration. Instead, he will put on his USA Men's National soccer team jersey and compete with his teammates against Panama in Sunday's CONCACAF Gold Cup final at 4 p.m. in Chicago.
"This is my career, this is what I do," Bedoya said in a phone interview Saturday.
Bedoya had planned to be in Colombia but when he got called up to play by U.S. men's head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, he couldn't refuse.
"We made arrangements back in January and didn't know Ale would be called," said Adriano, Bedoya's father. "He wanted to come but the call up from coach was the dream of his career."
Bedoya, a midfielder for the United States since 2009, was the last player cut from the roster prior to the team's appearance in the 2010 World Cup.
"To almost be there but not make it—it was tough to take," Bedoya said. "You learn a lot. It makes you become a better player and a better person."
Recently, Bedoya, 26, has seen success on the U.S. national team. On July 5 in San Diego, Bedoya scored his first goal for the national team during an international friendly against Guatemala.
"Scoring my first goal for national team was a relief," Bedoya said "It was about time to score."
Bedoya joined the starting lineup in the United States' 3-1 win over Honduras in Texas on July 24.
"I think it was, by far, the most outstanding performance from Ale for US team," Adriano Bedoya said of his son's game against Honduras.
Adriano Bedoya was watching the game from Colombia with the rest of Bedoya's family. Bedoya's brother, Santiago, stayed in the U.S. to watch his brother compete in the Gold Cup Sunday.
Four of Bedoya's high school friends, whom he met at St. Thomas and Cypress Bay High School, will also be at the CONCACAF final to cheer on Bedoya.
Steve Ziegler, Bedoya's former youth soccer coach, is always in the stands, whether Bedoya makes it into the game or not. Ziegler, started coaching 8-year-old Bedoya at the Weston Soccer Club, when the family moved to Florida from New Jersey.
"He was my first coach, he took me in as a father figure," Bedoya said of Ziegler.
Ziegler, who traveled to Chicago for the Gold Cup, estimates that he's been at about 90 percent of Bedoya's professional games in America. Bedoya also plays for a club team in Sweden, Helsingborgs IF.
"He hated to lose, but he just bounced back and that's how he's done in his pro career, too," Ziegler said.
Another former coach of Bedoya's who will be watching Sunday from afar is St. Thomas boys soccer coach John Walsh.
"The traits he's exhibiting now is the same stuff that gave me the idea there was a future for him," said Walsh. "He puts pressure on the ball. He opens up spaces for other people to get goals."
Bedoya visited St. Thomas in December 2012 to offer advice to the soccer team and catch up with his former high school coach.
There are still many unknowns for Bedoya. He is not sure if he will: start in the Gold Cup game, see any playing time in the team's four remaining FIFA World Cup Qualifying games or make it to the World Cup this time.
Bedoya isn't even sure when the next time he visits his home and family in Weston will be—though he knows it won't be anytime soon.
But one thing is clear in Bedoya's mind: he's not done proving himself.
"Every time you go out on the field you're not only trying to prove for others but for yourself that you deserve to be there," Bedoya said.
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