When Danny Bedoya stepped on the turf at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University Monday morning, the memories flooded back.
The New York City FC midfielder played some of the biggest moments of his early career at this stadium built on top of a parking garage in the middle of Queens — the New York City public schools championship game followed by two years at St. John’s University.
But most of all, Bedoya felt comfortable. He felt at home. That’s because, in many ways, he was.
“A lot of emotions,” Bedoya said after training. “Ever since I signed in August, I’ve been waiting for a moment to show myself. Not a lot of people know me, not a lot of people know how I play. For me, it’s very emotional. And another part is being here in Belson. I did two years here, which were good for me. And I’m excited to be home.”
Bedoya is set for another milestone moment to be played out at Belson Stadium Wednesday night when he makes his NYCFC debut against North Carolina FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent already confirmed Bedoya will be in his starting XI.
“Obviously there’s going to nerves for it to be my first official game,” Bedoya said. “But I’m ready for it because I’ve been waiting for it so long. A lot of emotions, but a lot of excitement.”
Bedoya was a standout at Francis Lewis High School, two miles down Utopia Parkway from St. John’s. He helped lead the Patriots to three PSAL championship appearances. The one at Belson Stadium, a penalty kick defeat to Beacon High School, was maybe his most memorable moment on that field.
“It broke my heart because we went to the final three years in a row, two vs. MLK, one here against Beacon, which we lost in PKs,” he said. “I actually missed my PK so I don’t want to talk about that. It happens, that’s part of soccer.”
Torrent said Bedoya, along with Keaton Parks, Juan Pablo Torres and Justin Haak, who were all confirmed in his starting XI against North Carolina, are players deserving to see more minutes. But there’s a numbers crunch on a team that is in good form.
“They deserve to play, Danny, JP, are training amazing every single day. And Danny has quality to play,” Torrent said. “The problem [is] we have maybe enough players in the middle when I decide to play just with two or last game just with one — [Alex] Ring. Sometimes it’s just about that. If you play with three midfielders, they have more possibilities to play.”
A year ago, Bedoya was playing for the Long Island Rough Riders, NYCFC’s Premier Development League affiliate, and viewed a midseason scrimmage against NYCFC as his opportunity, a potential tryout. He impressed so much that was signed by the Cityzens a few weeks later.
Having yet to play a minute for NYCFC, Bedoya views Wednesday’s Open Cup match as another pivotal moment in his career.
“That game with Rough Riders kind of changed my life because it’s what I wanted, to be in a professional environment for professional team,” Bedoya said. “I’m here now and I’m going to take advantage of it. I think it’s a game where people will say who’s this kid Bedoya? He’s a good player for us. Maybe we can see him a lot more.”
And what can fans expect from Bedoya Wednesday?
“I’m a player that likes to be on the ball a lot, find the ball, open space and just try to attack,” Bedoya said. “I’m also a hard worker, which means if if I lose the ball or if my teammates lose the ball, I’m going to try try and work hard to get back.”
After training Monday, Bedoya caught up with St. John’s coach Dave Masur, the first time he said he’s talked to him in person since leaving the Red Storm to pursue professional possibilities in Colombia.
“It was very nice to see him again,” Bedoya said. “I haven’t seen him ever since I left back in 2013. He’s a really nice guy, good coach. He was just asking me how my family is doing. It brings back memories because that was the first thing he did when I got here to St. John’s. He said he’s going to be at the game so that’s also going to be good support.”
Bedoya also expects his parents to be in the stands, just like they were for all of his other big moments at Belson Stadium.
“Just being here playing, having my parents watch me just 15 minutes from here is where I live,” Bedoya said of his overriding emotion of being back on the field. “Just knowing they’re there supporting me and hopefully they’ll be here again on Wednesday to do the same.”
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