BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, May 20, 2010
In the days leading up to Bob Bradley's unveiling of the preliminary 30 man roster for the World Cup, one of the most intriguing prospects for inclusion was LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle following his strong start to the MLS season.
While it is not rare for some players trying to make a World Cup team to lack significant experience, Buddle's case is especially unique.
Over the weekend, Buddle arrived at national team camp at Princeton University with only one cap and that was in a friendly over seven years ago.
Buddle, 28, began his professional career in 2000 with the Long Island Rough Riders of the USL. He quickly left the club to move up to MLS where he starred for the Columbus Crew for five seasons.
After stints with the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC, Buddle is now flourishing again with Los Angeles.
Now with the US national team, Buddle will look to make the jump from an established career MLS veteran to a viable goal scoring option for the US World Cup team.
"It's great," Buddle told YA after his second practice with the team on Tuesday. "I am trying not to get overwhelmed. I am going to embrace the whole environment. It's been good so far."
Buddle grew up in New Rochelle, New York in Westchester County just north of New York City. His development in the sport stemmed from his father who coached camps in the area and Buddle was able to take advantage of the opportunities that came from that.
"It was at the youth level and going to camp," said when asked where his first breakthrough came as a player. "My dad was a camp instructor. There were eight weeks of camp straight and I got to go for free. I got to utilize that and develop my game as a child."
"I played all over the place," he continued. "I was at FC Westchester. I played in Long Island with Amityville and Huntington. I played quite a bit with teams from that area. "
From growing up playing the sport on the east coast to emerging as a solid professional with Columbus then on to becoming a MLS star in Los Angeles, Buddle has achieved success across the US from coast to coast.
One thing, however, that he has never done yet is to take his success outside the boarders of North America.
Buddle insists he never thought about being in contention for a World Cup roster spot but only continued to work hard in Los Angeles under Bruce Arena.
Bradley's phone call giving him a formal invitation to World Cup camp came as a surprise to the former State Fair Community College star.
"I didn't think about [getting called up] at all," Buddle admitted. "I just wanted to get off to a good start with my club. The phone call was the biggest surprise. I didn't really think I was going to get called up."
Now that Buddle is in camp, he is put into a position where he must learn quickly. Unlike most of his teammates who were groomed at a steady pace throughout the past four years, Buddle must make up for lost time in a matter of days and find his role and fit within the team.
Buddle is aware of the challenges that lie ahead of him in the coming days.
"I have no idea what it's going to be like," he added. "It's my first time here. [Landon Donovan] has all the experience and there is a whole lot of experience within the camp with training day in and day out. I have to be a quick learner and just adjust as fast as I can."
While Buddle lacks experience at the international level, his biggest ally on the national team is also the team's leader and best player. In the weeks prior to the unveiling of the roster, Donovan had publically lobbied for Buddle's inclusion.
Donovan insisted that Buddle was scoring goals of impressive quality that could be an asset in South Africa. While Buddle agrees that the on-field chemistry between him and Donovan has worked in MLS, it is still untested at the international level.
The untested nature will surely change next week when Buddle and Donovan will likely see time together against the Czech Republic in Hartford.
"It's worked with the Galaxy but we haven't tried it at this level," he concluded. "I am just curious to see how it comes together at this level. But if I do get a chance to play with him here, it would be nice. I am a little familiar with him. We will see what happens."
Either way, the first half of 2010 has been a remarkable year for Buddle and through the quality of Buddle's playing, he gave the US another serious option and hope that the offense can succeed next month on the sport's biggest stage.