LOS ANGELES—Prospective U.S. striker Edson Buddle is on fire. In his first six games for the LA Galaxy, the seasoned MLS forward scored an incredible nine times. That’s an average of 1.5 goals per game—more than enough to make him a player of interest to U.S. coach and World Cup roster-picker Bob Bradly.
“His talent came through based upon his ability to score some great goals,” Bradly said of Buddle last week. “In less obvious ways he seems to be doing the little things on the field that make a difference for his team.”
As an out-of-nowhere hopeful to fill the shoes of Charlie Davies (still recovering from injury), I spoke with Buddle today about his breakout success. When asked if he’s been contacted by U.S. Soccer or coach Bob Bradly about a potential spot on the team, Buddle said no. “I know as much as you do,” he added.
What’s more, he called the media excitement surrounding his name as “speculation,” at least as it pertains to him making the World Cup team. “I’m just focusing on helping the Galaxy right now,” he said. “Focusing on Wednesday’s game against Colorado and trying to get us to the MLS Cup.”
Having played in “The Majors” since 2001, Buddle’s start to the 2010 season comes as quite a surprise. The difference? Staying in California during the off-season instead of returning to his native New York. “There’s a lot of MLS players from California,” he explained. “For the first time this off-season, I stayed in California, playing regularly against other MLS guys in simulated games, something I couldn’t do in New York because it’s so cold.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s “playing with the same guys this year,” including assist leader Landon Donovan, something Buddle is quick to recognize.”The team is playing in harmony,” he says of the undefeated Galaxy. “And my teammates keep finding me in the right spots.” I remind him that while accurate, his finishing skills cannot be overlooked. “You don’t just score nine goals in six games from good passing alone,” I tell him. “I guess,” he replies, obviously uncomfortable.
It wouldn’t be the first time the 28 year-old felt uncomfortable about his talent. In his first and only cap for the men’s national team—a very long seven years ago in a friendly against Venezuela—Buddle called the experience “nerve racking.”
“It was shortly after the World Cup,” he recalls. “I was young and didn’t really understand the flow. Since then, I’ve never had another opportunity.”
When asked what it would mean to potentially represent his country this summer, Buddle avoided the question while remaining loyal to the league that has given him a career. “I’m just worried about my club team right now,” he emphasized, adding that if he does that, everything else will fall into place. “MLS has treated me well, and I’m happy for the opportunity they’ve given me.”
Whether he likes to admit it or not, Buddle has proven to be the most exciting, if not the most immediate, source of American goal scoring so far this year—a mere six weeks before the World Cup starts.
Still, Bradly has his doubts. “He’s scored some incredible goals. The question is: will that still be the case in international games?”
We’ll find out May 11, when Bradly names his preliminary roster, and ultimately June 1, when the coach names his final roster.