Eleven minutes in a meaningless 2003 friendly against Venezuela: that was what Edson Buddle’s international career constituted when, to the surprise of the USA fans and despair of fellow strikers Eddie Johnson and Brian Ching, he was included in Bob Bradley’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Buddle, whose forename is in honour of the iconic Brazilian Pele, then hit two goals in a 3-1 victory over Australia in a warm-up match, before being afforded substitute appearances against England and Algeria in Group C. And although the 29-year-old was condemned to the bench for the defeat by Ghana in the Round of 16, his South African adventure rendered him eager for more action in the American jersey and to play at Brazil 2014.
But if Buddle had been on song - to the tune of nine goals in Los Angeles Galaxy’s first six matches of the Major League Soccer season - prior to Bradley picking his 23 names for the 19th FIFA World Cup, the pacy New Rochelle native failed to find his rhythm following his return home. So, when the US coach announced his squad for the upcoming friendlies against Poland and Colombia, the Galaxy No14, who had scored just once in his team’s previous six outings, was overlooked.
Buddle returned to form on Sunday evening, however, breaking the deadlock and earning the free-kick from which David Beckham scored the Galaxy’s winner in a 2-1 reverse of arch-rivals Chivas USA. Afterwards, the MLS’s 15-goal leading marksman discussed the pain of his international omission.
“I’d love to be at that camp,” Buddle told MLSsoccer.com. “But I’m not playing my greatest right now, so I’m not too disappointed. I’m coming off a hamstring injury and being in that environment would probably put some stress on my hamstring anyway.”
The former Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC man is now determined to fight for a return to a USA squad whose current options in attack are Fulham duo Johnson and Clint Dempsey, who are 26 and 27 respectively, and 20-year-olds Jozy Altidore and Brek Shea.
“The new guys make it competitive,” Buddle explained. “It’s good. It’s more at stake. Hopefully that can elevate everyone’s game, especially at my position. When things are competitive, it helps my game in the long run. When you have to fight for your job, you end up doing great things with your potential.”
Bradley recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the US reins until after the next FIFA World Cup. It was a move that pleased Buddle.
“I think Bradley getting picked up [for another cycle] is great,” he said. “He’s really a soccer nut and he puts a lot of thought into his decisions. I haven’t heard much talk yet [from other players] about Brazil in 2014, but I know that Bob is already working hard to prepare for that. It’s already on his mind.”
And while Buddle is keen to return to the fold, he is hoping to miss the international subsequent to the Poland and Colombia encounters, against South Africa in Cape Town on 17 November. If all goes according to plan, he will instead get the chance to impress Bradley in the colours of his club, who lead the regular-season standings, in the MLS Cup four days later.