Bedoya illness leaves void for U.S. in CONCACAF Cup

PASADENA, Calif. — The body was still warm after the U.S. national team's Gold Cup exit in July when coach Jurgen Klinsmann made one thing clear: The impending CONCACAF Cup wouldn't be time for experimentation.

Klinsmann made good on that assertion when his 23-man roster for the Confederations Cup playoff included 16 veterans of his 2014 World Cup squad. With players such as Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones returning to the fold, Klinsmann could have chosen to roll out the first-choice 11 that started the World Cup opener against Ghana.

But that possibility disappeared Friday, when Klinsmann confirmed veteran midfielder Alejandro Bedoya will miss Saturday's clash against Mexico on Saturday at the Rose Bowl because of illness.

"Ale can't make it," Klinsmann said. "He got sick — as simple as that. He had a fever and didn't train for two days and he's still not ready. ... It's a bummer for Ale because he was burning for this game, but it is just what it is."

After appearing in all four matches at the World Cup, Bedoya has started 12 games since — bringing him to 44 caps. There was little doubt the 28-year-old would be getting the nod in Klinsmann's midfield, likely in a wide role following recent spells at central midfield and right back.

After injury concerns for Cameron, Jones and Jozy Altidore forced Klinsmann to shuffle his lineup during the Gold Cup, he now has another hole to plug in a key contest.

"We'll miss Alejandro for sure," U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. "He's been on the field for us on a lot of big days the last few years. Certainly from that standpoint it hurts. But you guys always hear me say one of the strengths of our team has always been the ability for different guys to step in on different days and really come through. The mentality, the spirit, the commitment from every guy to compete for the guy next to him, these are things that have carried us on big days in tough moments."

Added midfielder Graham Zusi: "We have a lot of guys I know are itching to step up and perform. We've got a very deep team here in camp, so I don't see any issues."

With Bedoya out, Klinsmann now must evaluate other options out wide. Jones could be deployed as a tucked-in winger for the first time since the World Cup. Klinsmann also has the option of using World Cup veterans Zusi and Fabian Johnson on the flank, though Johnson seems poised to start at right back.

But the players most likely to see an uptick in playing time because of Bedoya's absence are young speedsters Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin. Klinsmann started the wingers last month in two friendlies — a win over Peru and loss to Brazil — and praised their ability to give the U.S. a different dynamic going forward.

"When you talk about DeAndre and Gyasi, they're both young players but young players that in the last year or two have started to gain big experience," Bradley said. "They're big parts of what we're doing and the way that we're going forward. Their hunger, their kind of youthful excitement and the way they go about it and their mindset, it's a positive for us."

Without Bedoya, the U.S. will be missing a two-way winger with the ability to run at defenders, pick out the final ball and do diligent work defensively. It's the biggest blow yet for a team that also will be without defender John Brooks and striker Aron Johannsson because of injury.

Yet it's worth noting Bedoya made his own breakout at the 2011 Gold Cup — earning a roster slot after an injury to Benny Feilhaber, then jumping into the starting lineup when Landon Donovan attended his sister's wedding. For the likes of Yedlin and Zardes, the CONCACAF Cup could present a similar window of opportunity.

"It's a huge blow, but at the same time there are other guys on this roster capable of filling in," Zardes said. "We prepare for moments like this — the unpredictable moments."