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Buddle for the USMNT? A Point/Counter-Point

buddle2 265x300 Buddle for the USMNT?  A Point/Counter Point

After getting off to the most blazing start of a season in MLS history, nobody’s stock has soared faster than Edson Buddle’s.  The Galaxy are 4-0, have out-scored their opponents 7-1 and all seven goals came off the head or foot of Buddle.  With the forward position the biggest question mark confronting Bob Bradley as he ponders which 23 players will be going to South Africa in June, Buddle is making his clam for one of those positions.

This is an unexpected development for a nine year MLS veteran with a single senior cap to his name.  Buddle has played for four different MLS teams, and has battled injuries, substance abuse issues and a reputation for laziness.  Nobody has doubted Buddle’s natural gifts, and those moments when he has been focused and injury-free have generated some terrific runs of form.  However Buddle’s career has never attracted the interest of either overseas teams or US National Team coaches.

Yet, his startling 2010 streak has generated a lot of buzz.  But does he have what it takes to go to South Africa?  This is the debate that is going on in my head:

Take Him to Africa!  The man is scoring goals.  With Charlie Davies and Brian Ching still a huge doubt, Conor Casey’s stock falling, and Kenny Cooper unable to get off the bench at Plymouth (!!), it would be nice to put a striker on the team who is actually putting the ball in the net.

Leave him home!   Buddle is hot at the moment, but let’s have a little perspective.  After spending nine years without getting a sniff at an important position with the Nats, after four games he is our savior?  Let’s not confuse the flavor of the month with a gourmet classic.

But this hot streak is not out of the blue.  Instead of going home to New York this off-season, Buddle stayed in Los Angeles working out.  He hit the gym and the training ground, worked on his game, and came to pre-season training in top shape.  Buddle, who has been susceptible to running out of gas and losing a step after about 60 minutes is now working hard and battling for every ball for all 90 minutes.  The 2010 Buddle is the Buddle that he always should have been.

Buddle may be in good shape, but everyone’s focus on Donovan has given Buddle more room to play than he has ever had.  Every opposing MLS manager approaches their game against the Galaxy with one objective – contain Landon Donovan.  Donovan is quicker and has better ball control than any other player in MLS, and he has the ability to cut open any MLS defense.  As opposing teams shift to deny Donovan as much space as they can, Buddle has found acres available for him to drive to the goal and score.

Have you seen Buddle playing?  He is fighting though bodies for all his goals.  Last Saturday was a great example.  All game Buddle was battling RSL’s Nat Borchers whether the ball was at his feet or 50 yards away.  They were throwing each other to the turf and at times it resembled UFC as much as it did MLS.  However, Buddle kept his cool all game, fought through Borchers and several others for his first headed goal and darted through several defenders to receive Juninho’s pass, controlled the ball and blasted it into the RSL net for his second.

Even if we agree Buddle is good enough, is he what the Nats need?   Buddle’s game is similar to Jozy Altidore’s.  Buddle is big and strong, and what we need is deft and quick to pair with Jozy.  That is why the Davies/Altidore combination was so good, and if we play Buddle and Altidore together, where is the speed to match the brawn?

You are telling me what we need, and I am telling you what we have.  Having Davies healthy would be great.  Having another super-quick striker would be terrific.  Having Leo Messi decide to become an American citizen would be fabulous.  Unfortunately, Bob Bradley has to play the cards that are in his deck.  The fact of the matter is that the talent pool for the Nats at striker is pretty shallow, and if Buddle is scoring good goals in bunches, that has to count for a lot.

The next thing you are going to tell me is that we should take Herculez Gomez too. 

Actually, I think we should, but that is a debate for another time. 

Other random notes from the Galaxy-RSL game…..

  • The new fashion in replica kit-wear?  I saw at least a dozen Galaxy fans wearing Donovan’s #9 Everton jersey at the game.  Moreover, four or five of those fans decided to show-off their inside-knowledge coolness by purchasing and wearing the Toffee’s away black jersey with Donovan’s name and number. 
  • About 1,000 Galaxy fans showed up two hours before the game to watch British celebrities and ex-footballers play celebrities and ex-footballers from the rest of the world.  The Brits won 3-1.  Fox Soccer Channel’s  and ex Newcastle player Warren Barton got the first goal for the Brits and X-Men III and Snatch’s Vinnie Jones got the next two, including one from a nice cross by The Queen’s and Frost/Nixon’s Michael Sheen.  Heroes’ Santiago Cabrera pulled one back for the rest for the world at the very end.  Despite the Galaxy promising that Gordon Ramsey would be there, he was actually a no-show.  Ramsey, you are a disgrace!!