DAVID SMITH - Sunday, November 20, 2011
After helping the US to their first road win under Jürgen Klinsmann, starting striker Edson Buddle believes their offensive explosion is a sign of the team's patient progress under the new coach.
Prior to Tuesday's game in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the US had struggled not only for wins, but more disturbingly for offensive output under the German coach.
Through the first six games under Klinsmann's tutelage, they had only netted a pair of goals through 540 minutes as compared to nine in an identical span of time directly prior to his arrival.
This all changed during the recent foggy evening in Ljubljana, as Klinsmann opted to put a two-forward lineup onto the field, pairing Jozy Altidore and Buddle in front of a four-man midfield. The result was immediate, as the team exploded for a trio of goals in the first 45 minutes of play, with Buddle initiating the charge through is ninth-minute blast to open the scoring.
Rather than feeling the visible difference exposed any flaw in the coach's earlier approach, the Ingolstadt striker points out that the increased emphasis on the attack against Slovenia came as a result of Klinsmann's approach to buttress the team from the back line forward, and his growing satisfaction with the results.
"He wanted to attack more now that he's happy with the defense," he remarked of the change against Slovenia.
"When [Klinsmann] came in he wanted to structure the defense from the back going forward," he continued about German's philosophy with the team. "The progression has gotten better for him and he's happy with it. In that last game he put two strikers up front and he wanted to win the game."
While the much-needed result did relieve much of the pressure from both the coach and players, the Ingolstadt forward still sees much needed growth both in the short and long term for American soccer, however feels that there are many positive signs of improvement, both amongst US-based players and those plying their trade abroad.
"Coming off the last game I think it's going good and there are a lot of positives, however it still needs to grow," he assesses.
"The international game is very fast, so with the players in Europe we can see the progression of everybody's ability is getting better, especially amongst the international guys."
He is also quick to point out the continued importance in the domestic league where he spent the bulk of his career. "In MLS you see a lot of guys like Brek [Shea] and other guys coming up."
An increasingly unavoidable topic surrounding the national team in recent months is the growing influence coming not only from the German-born coach, but also from the number of American players who have either taken their game to the country or experienced their early developmental years within its club culture.
Buddle is proving to be an increasingly successful example of this phenomenon, indoctrinated himself into the 2. Bundesliga during his year at Ingolstadt, while concurrently earning the distinction as one of Klinsmann's preferred strikers.
He feels that the overall effect of merging more of the German game into the US National Team, whether it be through players or a mutual interchange of technique and ideas, will prove to be a long-term boon.
"I think him being German he respects the league and knows what it's all about," he acknowledges of Klinsmann's noted inclusion of so many players playing professionally in the country.
"Internationally, Germany is one of the most powerful countries soccer-wise. They have played in a lot of finals and semifinals [in major tournaments] and have won a lot."
"He's going to find a lot of the German-Americans here to help the US team, the other players will see that and hopefully it will push them," he suggests, adding, "and hopefully everybody will be a good influence on each other."
As Buddle returns to helping Ingolstadt try to fight through a tough first half of the season, his former LA Galaxy teammates across the globe are preparing for perhaps one of the most important and heralded games of all-time, as they will face Houston Dynamo on Sunday at the The Home Depot Center in the 2011 MLS Cup Final.
Even though the nine-hour time difference between Los Angeles and Ingolstadt will likely prevent the four-year member of the team from watching the game live, he nevertheless is fully expecting the team to lift the trophy for the first time since 2005.
"I don't think I'll be able to watch he game, but I'm going for LA," he unsurprisingly states regarding Sunday night's game, which begins at an inconvenient 3am in Germany, adding "I'm excited for it."
As for his prognosis of the overall result, Buddle expects his former teammates to convincingly earn the MLS Cup title which eluded them in recent years. "2-0 for LA," he concludes with a grin. "I think they will get a shut-out."